It is a given that if drug misuse can be spotted in its early days then treatment (including education) can be shorter and more effective than if picked up later. And it is more likely to be mainstream services such as education, Sure Start, Connexions, and housing that first come across young people with drug or alcohol addictions.
Young people who use drugs often experience negative responses from organisations that are poorly trained in dealing with them. The effect is to further alienate the young person and reinforce social exclusion, which could push someone into crime to support their drug use.
It is also a given that the best way to deal with young people is through effective training. By dispelling myths and equipping staff with confidence and skills, well trained teams will be able to identify whether a young person is at risk.
A charity based in Derby has put these two “givens” together and brought a real plus to the city. Addaction was set up in 1967 by Mollie Craven, whose son was addicted to heroin and later died. Its aim is to support parents of drug users and it is now the self-proclaimed leading charity working solely in the field of drug and alcohol treatment.
In 2000, it began operating in Derby where it soon found that training on substance misuse throughout the city was piecemeal and unco-ordinated. So, in July last year the substance misuse training project burst into life.
“There was no set standard training in the city,” says Lisa Baseley, training co-ordinator with the project. “We would get calls from people asking for training but we had to rely on people who were working here and who already had a case load. So it was ‘as and when’ really, whenever we could spare a bit of time with people. So, we created a dedicated team – without a case load – who could just deliver training and develop packages.” The team has just appointed its fourth member.
Part of the attraction was creating specialist training from scratch. “We did research based on ideas we knew and wanted to develop. All the training that I had ever been on has been a bit patronising. It’s all snap-cards. We wanted to get away from that. We have pitched our courses to be professional and informative for people who are already in contact with drug-users.”
And very good the material is too. The bulk of the work revolves around a two-day accredited training package: day one – substance awareness looks at drug and alcohol use and dependency, harm minimisation, substance use and mental health; day two – more intensive skills training looks at motivational interviewing, solution-focused brief therapy, active listening skills, assessment and referral, and assessing risk.
Baseley says that most people opt to do day one and then those needing more intensive training do day two, such as recently with people from the education welfare pupil referring unit.
Others who have contracted training include Sure Start, Connexions, the local drug action team board, probation, youth offending services, police, education providers and social services. “Most of our work has come through word-of-mouth,” says Baseley. “We had to be a little bit cautious of advertising too much at this stage in case we had all these people crammed onto the free training until March. But it hasn’t really turned out like that. We’ve booked paid-for training from Derby Homes, which is Derby Council housing. Also we have been approached by an organisation, which works with young people to get them into work or keep them in work, to provide training nationally.”
Baseley is clear that having staff dedicated to researching, developing and delivering training is at the heart of the project’s success. “It’s nice to have the time to develop it. It has been interesting because the more you research it, the more you realise that things are continually changing. We are able to update statistics as trends happen, as drugs change, as people’s drinking and drug patterns change.”
In an environment of constant change, one thing’s for sure: nobody in Derby is being short-changed by this project.
For more information contact Lisa Baseley at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scheme: Addaction’s substance misuse training project
Location: Derby, east Midlands
Inspiration: To provide co-ordinated and standardised training throughout the city.
Cost: Call director of services, Gerv McGrath for details: 01332 222 457