Posted on behalf of Wrexham Community Safety Partnership.
The impact of new synthetic drugs like ‘Mamba’ and ‘Spice’ has been well documented. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve read the headlines.
Towns and cities across the UK have been trying to work out how to deal with the problem, and it’s fair to say there’s no easy answer.
But here in Wrexham, we’ve been taking an innovative approach that might be showing some early signs of success.
What’s more, other towns and cities are starting to look at us…hoping to find answers to their own problems.
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Every minute counts
Over the past few months, we’ve been getting to know people in and around the town centre with drug issues – so we understand their individual backgrounds, circumstances and needs.
It’s called ‘profiling’, but maybe that sounds a bit ‘big brother’?
Steve Campbell, Wrexham Council’s NPS (New Psycho-active Substances) Taskforce Co-ordinator, explains: “All it really means is that we’ve got to know each individual, so we know what kind of help they’ll need if they decide to accept help.
“It could be that one person will need help with accommodation, another will need help with their mental health and so on. And we’ll continually monitor them, so we know how their circumstances are changing from week-to-week.
“It means we can hit the ground running and offer them tailored support the minute they choose to accept it.
“Every minute counts during those initial moments when someone chooses to accept help.”
Everything in one place
While profiling is at the heart of the approach in Wrexham, there are some other really important pieces in the jigsaw.
About six months ago, an event was held that brought together lots of organisations involved in tackling substance misuse and homelessness in the town.
It gave professionals and volunteers working on the front-line the chance to talk in-depth about the challenges.
It led to a ‘lightbulb’ moment.
Steve says: “The thing we all recognised was that it was unrealistic, in some cases, to send people all over the place for different types of support.
“If someone struggling with drug-addiction asks for help, and you tell them they need to go to one place to get help with one thing, and then to a different place for something else, there’s often issues with ensuring that person is able to access the various sources of support available to them.
“Some people are unable to keep appointments and turn up in the right place at the right time…and so you lose the chance to engage them.
“It became apparent that we needed to try and create some kind of one-stop shop facility.”
So the idea of a one-stop shop emerged. A place where substance misusers could go and access all the different help and support they need.
The idea was put into practice – with the ‘shop’ set up at a suitable location in the town centre, operating on a one-day-a-week basis to begin with.
Because of the all-important profiling being done, the professionals on-site know exactly what support to offer a person.
And a ‘rapid-referral’ system means they get that support fast. So if they need to go into detox or rehab, that happens very quickly.
Early signs of success
So the million-dollar question…
Is it making a difference?
Steve says: “It’s early days and nobody is counting their chickens. But we’ve had some encouraging results.
“The people we’re trying to engage with are comfortable turning up at the one-stop shop, and some are now in detox and rehab programmes.
“That’s really positive, and something that wouldn’t have happened before.”
Having the right support-plan in place, and being able to engage an individual right there and then, is the key says Steve.
“Because we have all the different support workers on hand – ready to help with addiction, health issues, mental health, finding somewhere to live, benefits and so on – it means we can offer help the moment people decide they want it.
“That’s important. Any delay, and an hour later they could be back under the influence of drugs, and no longer interested in getting help.”
Effective co-ordination between the different agencies involved – including Wrexham Council, the police, local health services and support charities – is also proving really important.
Other towns and cities
Wrexham’s approach has attracted interest from other town and cities, keen to see what they can learn from our experiences.
Cllr Hugh Jones, Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, says: “We’re doing something that’s really simple in principal – we’re making it as easy as possible for people to get the tailored support they need, in one place, as soon as they decide they want it.
“But it’s innovative in that it isn’t really being done in most towns and cities. So other places with the same issues are interested in seeing what kind of results we get in Wrexham.
“There’s no easy answer, but if we can help more people get the support and opportunities they need to move away from drugs, and the chaotic lifestyle that goes with them, that will go a long way in helping us manage this difficult problem.”
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