Posted on behalf of Wrexham Community Safety Partnership.
Drug addiction is a grim place to be. It often leads down a dark road, towards a chaotic and damaging lifestyle.
So is there a way back? For many people – with the right help and support – yes.
Last November, we blogged about an innovative approach in Wrexham that was showing early signs of success.
A few months down the line, and that early promise is taking root – helping a number of people break their dependence on synthetic drugs like Spice and Mamba, and improving their lives.
Holding down a job
We won’t identify individuals in this article, but we’ve seen several people benefit from the pilot project.
There are people who’ve got off the drugs and seem to be doing well – applying for university, holding down a job, working with charities, finding a place to live and so on.
Steve Campbell, Wrexham Council’s NPS (New Psycho-active Substances) Taskforce Co-ordinator, explains: “Over the past couple of years, these drugs have damaged a lot of lives and created a lot of problems in towns and cities all over the country.
“But the approach we’ve taken in Wrexham continues to show promise, and there are people making real progress thanks to the support they’ve been given.
“We’ve seen individuals successfully go through rehab, get back into education or employment, and get a place to live.
“So we hope we can build on that.”
Spice in the headlines
Wrexham’s problems around Spice and Mamba made a lot of news last year, and were hot topics on social media.
There was concern for the welfare of people taking the drugs – with some graphic images showing the scary effects.
People were also worried about the effect on the town centre – the impression it gave, whether it would put people off coming into town, anti-social behaviour and so on.
Helping people get off the drugs was seen as key.
Grabbing the moment
So the organisations working to tackle the problem – including the council, police, charities and health services – started building ‘profiles’ on individuals with known drug issues.
It meant they got to know each person, so they could work out what kind of support they’d need if they decided to accept help.
“One person might need help with accommodation, another will need help with their mental health and so on”, says Steve.
“It means we can hit the ground running and offer them tailored support the minute they choose to accept it.”
This highly individualised approach plays a big part.
Making it easy to get help
The other really important factor is ‘accessibility.’
Steve says: “If you tell people they have to go to different places to get different types of support, some will miss appointments and you’ll lose the chance to engage them.
“So the partners created a ‘one-stop shop’ at a suitable town centre location. It means people can access all the different types of help they need in one place. It makes it easy.”
Because of the profiling, 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.
A model for the future?
Cllr Hugh Jones, Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, says: “As a partnership, we’re working very closely – co-ordinating our resources and trying to find a solution to a very difficult problem.
“Not everyone who accepts help is going to see it through to the end, but – to some extent – we’ve found an answer.
“We’re seeing individuals make progress because of the highly-tailored, responsive and accessible support available.
“It’s also true that other parts of the country are looking at what we’re doing in Wrexham.
“And there’s a feeling this approach might help towns and cities tackle other types of drugs in the future– not just Spice and Mamba.”
Cllr Jones says a recent Home Office ‘County Lines’ review, which talks of good practice in Wrexham in tackling the supply of drugs from big cities, also shows we’re moving in the right direction.
But the fight against Spice, Mamba and other drugs is far from over.
Cllr Jones says: “We still have a long way to go, but we are determined to maintain our joint effort to support the individuals who need this help, and to manage the impact on our communities.”
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