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Community drug and alcohol services continue

Services to support people with drug or alcohol issues in Stoke-on-Trent have adapted so that they can continue to operate through the Coronavirus outbreak.

The City Council-commissioned Community Drug and Alcohol Service (CDAS) is no longer able to provide a building for people to access, but is still providing support to more than 1,400 people through online groups, phone and video calls, texts and emails. 

The service has adapted from face-to-face meetings to holding online group sessions including quizzes and creative art workshops, with daily fun challenges to give service users a routine and tasks to do each day. Service users are also using online courses and are setting up remote study groups to support each other with purposeful activities and learning to help them into employment. 

CDAS services such as a needle exchange and prescription service are still open between 9.30am - 4pm, following public health guidance and social distancing measures. 

Council leader Abi Brown said: “We are working to prioritise services for vulnerable people who need our help the most through the Coronavirus outbreak. It is important for people to know that we will still be able to support them if they or their loved one is experiencing issues with drugs or alcohol.

“We know that the Coronavirus is, understandably, leaving many households feeling worried or anxious, and at these times people may turn to alcohol to help them feel at ease. But increased drinking will lead to a higher tolerance and this could lead to a greater reliance on alcohol to relax. We’re encouraging people to join a national campaign to look after yourself and our NHS by finding a new meaning in ‘happy hour’ and find some new ways to relax at home, looking after both your physical and mental health. Use the hashtag #newhappyhour to let everyone know how you’re taking care of yourself during this time.”

CDAS is asking that service users do not attend the Hope Street building unless by appointment only. This will ensure that governmental restrictions linking to Covid-19 are applied.

Stoke CDAS service manager Lisa Nagington said: “Our team has risen to the challenges that have presented as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The team have worked tirelessly mitigating the risk and changing service provision to meet with the requirements of social distancing and isolation. The service has undertaken a massive piece of work changing over 900 prescriptions and then delivering them to pharmacies across Stoke-on-Trent on a daily basis. Unfortunately this has meant that the service has had to restrict some elements of practice over the first three weeks of the pandemic. The service is now operating a more extensive provision, innovatively using new technologies alongside telephone communications to deliver new assessments, reviews and psychosocial support for all service users”. 

The NHS has developed a tracker to help people to keep an eye on how much they are drinking when at home. Visit ‘know your units’ via https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calculating-alcohol-units and make a note on paper of how much you are drinking or download the ‘Try Dry’ App. Residents are advised that if they drink wine or spirits at home, to make sure they measure out their drinks, like they would in a bar or pub. This can be done using regular kitchen equipment.

For anyone experiencing issues with drugs or alcohol, Stoke-on-Trent Community Drug and Alcohol Service provides free and confidential support without judgement. The service can be contacted by calling 01782 283113 to speak to a trained advisor, or via an online webchat service. Simply visit www.scdas.org.uk.

Tony Mercer, programme manager (substance use) for Public Health England, said: “The World Health Organisation has called  or drug and alcohol treatment services to remain accessible during the Coronavirus crisis, acknowledging that in times of crisis many people turn to drugs and alcohol and that those who are dependent on alcohol and/or drugs are at greater risk of relapse and death. With restrictions on movement during the pandemic, more people who are alcohol and/or drug dependent are likely to experience life-threatening withdrawals, return to illicit drug use (and associated criminal activity), overdose and other drug and alcohol-related injury or health complications. Drug and alcohol treatment service provision is essential to support this vulnerable group, prevent deaths and ease pressure on other parts of the health and criminal justice system.”

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