September2 2020 - Page 14

PRESCRIBING into the meeting, and we’ve taken it further than a therapeutic approach, with social evenings, quizzes and talent nights. So we’ve definitely been able to broaden the scope of what’s on offer – people are really happy with that extra choice of having a phone call or going on Zoom.’ IMPROVED ENGAGEMENT One of the recurrent themes of an ongoing Change Grow Live survey has been the choice aspect, he points out, and not just from service users. ‘We’re getting feedback from workers as well who are saying they’ve never had so much contact with clients, especially the hard-to-reach people who would never come into a service. They’ll pick up a phone, so the engagement side with these clients has been so much better.’ In some cases, the new ways of working have sped up the implementation of initiatives that organisations were already thinking about. ‘I think the big thing is that there’s an appetite for change and a different way of working,’ says Horne. ‘For example, we’re very conscious of the importance of the first four weeks in people’s recovery journey. Traditionally you’d call somebody in for an assessment and then try to get them into treatment. But an appointment in a week’s time is very little use – people want an appointment tomorrow and the next day and the next. We really increased contact, so we’ll still have physical meetings but interspersed with maybe three or four 15-minute chats – by phone or video or maybe just WhatsApp, “How are you doing, what’s your plan for today, how did you get on yesterday?” We lose a lot of people in the first four weeks across the sector, and we really need to engage – this has allowed us to do that. So a lot of what happened during lockdown has allowed us to unlock what we were thinking anyway.’ The charity has also been able to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally access services, he adds. ‘Attending appointments online or via the phone can take away anxiety and logistical challenges, and we’ve completely revamped our web pages to give much more clarity of advice. We would often have people come on a web chat to say, “I think I need to do an alcohol detox but I’m a primary school teacher – I’m not going to a drug and alcohol service.” We know there’s this massive proportion of people out there who are struggling but never come near services, so we’re really trying to open up.’ FLEXIBLE APPROACHES So with the new ways of working now bedded in, how are people feeling about the long-term options? ‘At the beginning there was a lot of insecurity, a lot of uncertainty, but it’s now a way of life,’ says Dhandayudham. ‘Early on we were very focused on the complex patients, the risky patients, the ones who had needs around safeguarding, but as time’s gone on we’re trying to bring back a lot of our normal interventions – the BBVs, the alcohol detoxes, and face-to-face work even for non-complex patients. But it’s very much a flexible approach, so if local lockdowns come into place we’re fully prepared – we can be very flexible in what we do.’ ‘I’m fairly optimistic,’ says Tony Lee. ‘I’m a client myself, I still access services, and I like my options ‘If local lockdowns come into place we’re fully prepared – we can be very flexible in what we do.’ DR ARUN DHANDAYUDHAM now, I really do. Some days it’s not always possible to go into a service so to be able to say, “Can I have that by Zoom or a phone call?” is tremendously helpful. It takes the pressure off me, and off the service.’ ‘I’ve got COPD so I have to be careful,’ says Barry. ‘Where it used to be going to see your key worker fortnightly it’s now monthly, and you’re sitting two or three metres away. But I’ve not found it to be a problem, and if there is any issue I call or text and things get sorted. If you go in daily you’re drug tested and alcohol tested, whereas if you’re having a conference call there’s nothing to stop you drinking or using drugs after – but the only person you’re lying to is yourself. I get all the help in the world, and it’s because I want that help.’ DDN This article has been produced with support from an educational grant provided by Camurus, which has not influenced the content in any way. 14 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • SEPTEMBER 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM