Andy Ryan is Head of Recovery and Addiction Services at Changing Lives. Following the publication of Part Two of Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs last week, here Andy shares his thoughts on the importance of psychosocial interventions and recovery within communities.
At Changing Lives we recognise that substance dependency is often something that happens as a result of social factors and unfortunately painful life experiences. We have been shaped and educated by the many people that have shared their recovery journeys with us and we recognise the importance of therapeutic support to help people make meaning of what has happened in their past and decide what changes they would like to make moving forward.
It was great to see that Dame Carol Black’s Review recognises the importance of psychosocial interventions and that provision of this support around the country is currently inadequate. Psychosocial interventions refers to support that addresses both psychological and social needs of individuals, families and communities. This type of support requires regular supervision from appropriately qualified professionals, yet cuts in funding over the past few years has made this impossible to provide.
Dame Carol Black very honestly reflects that efficacy within the system requires skilled and competent workers with no more than 30 people to support at any given time, yet I have heard of many teams having to support in excess of 70 or more people. Even the most compassionate and skilled professional would struggle to deliver the best quality interventions with caseloads of this size, contributing to the impasse and complexity of being able to change, and we should recognise the ingenuity of teams who build wider support offers in these circumstances. There is simply not enough time available to listen, understand, challenge and support people to process traumatic experiences – both historic trauma and the ever-present trauma associated with a daily life of substance dependency.
We support the recommendation to not only review the most effective ways of supporting people but also the development of a central function to ensure consistent quality standards and shared learning. We must invest in people that have given so much under difficult circumstances to try and help those experiencing addiction and we must evolve to enable a more relational approach to supporting people in breaking the cycle and impact of dependency.
We are also enthusiastic about the recommendation to ensure vibrant recovery communities in each local area. As we have learnt over many years, recovery for an individual happens in communities. If we work together and provide a robust psychosocial offer alongside effective community support that gives people a sense of belonging then we will vastly increase people’s health and wellbeing, whilst also challenging stigma and contributing to prevention through a greater understanding of addiction for everyone. We need to bring addiction out of the shadows, see it as the public health matter it is and talk more about why this is occurring to help arrest the grip it seems to have within our society.
You can read Changing Lives’ full response to Dame Carol Black’s Review here.