Drink and Drugs News DDN June 2020 - Page 14

POLICY STAYING ALERT Illustration: erhui1979/iStock The sector has risen admirably to the challenges of COVID-19. But it needs to remain vigilant when it comes to what happens next, says Peter Keeling If the current emergency has demonstrated anything, it’s the importance of having a robust healthcare system. Drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services form an absolutely essential part of this, but like so many others our sector is facing incredible challenges because of COVID-19. The fact that services from community treatment to residential rehab have been able to find solutions is testament to both the sector’s innovative strength and the dedication of its key workers. And it’s these qualities that are keeping people safe. But now we need to ask ourselves about the next steps for drug and alcohol treatment, and what lies ahead for the people who rely on our support. Over the past few months, Collective Voice has been working hard to bring together people and organisations from across the sector, so we can identify key challenges and find solutions that work for everybody. We’ve seen unprecedented levels of collaboration across third sector providers, NHS trusts and commissioners, who have all brought their expertise to bear on what is possible when it comes to provision of OST, face-to-face interventions, supported housing, and many other areas of our work. It’s far too early to assess the longer-term impacts of changes to these core aspects of treatment and recovery. But even at this early stage it’s clear that many in our field are asking themselves the hard questions of ‘what do we keep?’ and ‘what do we lose?’ The sector has always been a champion of innovation and flexibility when it comes to designing services around people’s needs, and this flexibility has been crucial in recent months. It has allowed us to keep people supplied with life-saving OST medication and food, helped us create safe spaces for women and children fleeing abuse and violence and, almost overnight, allowed the sector to shift to digital ways of working so frontline staff can maintain crucial relationships with their clients and support them in their recovery. The crisis has also highlighted our sector’s ability to collaborate; not just at national policy level, but also at local levels. Because it’s at these levels that drug and alcohol services have established themselves as key partners in crosssector initiatives that support some of the most vulnerable people in society. The London Homeless Hotels Drug and Alcohol Support Service (HDAS), brought together to provide treatment for people living in hotels under the government’s rough sleeping initiative, is a perfect example of the kind of innovative, collaborative response the sector is capable of. Similarly in Dorset, ‘As we look to how services will operate in the “new normal”, there are a number of issues that are already causing concern.’ Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is working with drug and alcohol partners and the local public health team so that council delivery drivers can provide vulnerable service users with OST medications. Across the country, there are many other examples of such collaboration. These local and national relationships have helped the sector support itself during an extremely turbulent period where quick decisions have had to be made to keep people safe. Areas that already had strong relationships across sectors tell us they’ve been well placed to respond quickly, and councils which already had good 14 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JUNE 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM