An integrated project is helping people in the West Midlands with alcohol dependence.
When people with an alcohol dependence are in the depths of despair, they can sometimes be quite suspicious of support. They may be suffering from complex physical and mental health problems compounded by other social issues. Gaining the trust of those with a drinking problem can be a battle. But the Sandwell Blue Light project is breaking through these challenges and changing lives.
Developed by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in 2015, the project has created a new system that identifies, engages and then builds a long-term rapport with the most difficult to reach drinkers. This includes those who do not engage with treatment, who are regular users of NHS services, or others involved in criminal behaviour.
While there were existing alcohol services in place in the borough, resources were limited and there was a risk people could fall through the net. With this in mind, the Blue Light project set out to ensure that people in need had access to an engaging, non-judgmental support system.
The project brings together a cross-section of partners, including public health professionals, the ambulance and probation services, and the police. Local GPs, mental health specialists, alcohol treatment providers and other NHS professionals are also on board.
The team coordinates its own work, identifying those having the greatest difficulties with alcohol in Sandwell, and develops jointly-owned action plans to provide them with support. Team members talk regularly to ensure they identify and monitor any clients at high risk. For example, a probation officer may have a phone call with a local GP to share information about a drinker’s risk and vulnerability. Every month, the team meets to review and assess client progress and agree on the next steps they can take to help.
Lisa McNally, the director of public health for Sandwell, says the project does not define people by antisocial behaviour. Instead, it looks to root causes. “Unless we get past people’s behaviours and look to see what’s driving them to continue to drink year on year, and not engage with services, we will never get anywhere,” she says.
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Source: The Guardian Newspaper