From the Heart, Not the Text Book

08 November, 2019

Blog following meeting 2 in Stirling, December 2019

A Recovery orientated system of care from the heart, not the text book, can save lives

I have had a week to reflect on the taskforce's second meeting. It has been difficult to do so as it landed on a particularly hectic week, not just with work but attending fantastic events such as the East Ayrshire Churches Homelessness Action, which met a year on from the launch of its report ‘Each Person Matters’.
When I first met Janice, David and the team I remarked that what they had done was textbook ROSC model. “Do you know what a ROSC model is?” I asked.

They had put their service users, the most vulnerable marginalised members of the community at the heart of all they did. They invited wrap around services into their 3 weekly drop ins so individuals could get help with housing, benefits, and health whilst they socialised with peers over lunch prepared and served by volunteers. There was a host of advice on offer along with food parcels.

When they recognised that their service users were dying despite their efforts they responded by inviting all services whose duty it was to support them round the table. The work continues. It was great to visit again despite the message that there was still much more to do.

Thankfully for many, a genuine person centred service continues in that building. It is person centred not in terms of the user being in the middle (although they are) but because the way they treat people in non-judgmental loving way, where they do what they say they will, and they are truly empathetic. It is a shame they have to leave. I think the hope would be that one day they don’t have to.

I mention this because the needs of that community are the same as the needs of all our community’s that suffer from multiple deprivation. Across Scotland the lived experience reference groups feedback that access to treatment is their main concern. The choice of treatment. The quality of treatment. How staff members talk to them. Stigma. They feel a massive disconnect between what they ask for time and time again in surveys and mapping exercises and any changes made. It feels like change is just too slow. The various systems and strategies have failed our communities as they fail the individuals. There are so many just trapped. We know that a large number of those dying have been seeking recovery for decades and their bodies just can’t cope anymore.

The DDTF is has split into sub-groups and the group I am a part of are looking at complex needs, looking at where poor mental health, violence, homelessness or poverty are all factors in a drug related death. We are looking at some of the work highlighted in Hard Edges Report amongst other pieces of work such as Housing First projects or The Navigators in A&Es.

I believe our group need to be realistic about setting expectations as we may not find rapid responses to reduce drug deaths within our remit compared to other groups where increasing Naloxone training and availability may save lives. This may be a group where we appreciate we need to think about long term goals. The goal must be recovery. We need a destination. We need to offer hope.

My experience of addiction was after years of havoc and desperate attempts I was lucky enough to get an NHS detox but when I left there was no meaningful aftercare and I went back to my previous behaviour. 8 years later and finally clean and sober, I met a young guy who had exactly the same experience in the same ward. I have since been back to that ward to try and carry a message of recovery to the patients. It is so hard to access treatment but when you are lucky enough, it is such a waste that we haven’t got the services in place to sustain recovery after. William White who is credited with the ROSC model got so frustrated at watching patients get sober then return again drunk that he took them to AA meetings in his own time. We can’t afford not to talk about recovery.

The best part of the last DDTF meeting, for me, was the discussions at the end with Forth Valley Recovery community. They brought great energy and honesty and hope, along with a blueprint for a recovery community that can be started anywhere. There is a lot of great work going on in Scotland.
This week has also seen the release of Right, Respect, and recovery’s action plan as well as The Scottish Affair Committee’s report. There has been plenty in the news and on social media. We have a constant message from those we are trying to help, who we have a duty to serve, and we need to accelerate the action. We also need to celebrate a bit more what is happening day in day out. Professionals and volunteers continue to do their best with what they have.

It was also a hectic week because it was Halloween. I was stressed out trying to get my kids organised for it. I am so grateful that I found a way out of addiction with the help of so many people so I can be present for them. I am so grateful to be able to contribute to society now, repay debts, and try and help others. This is all because I got hope from recovery meetings where I saw people get well. I got hope. I needed treatment but I also need a destination. Eacha gives people hope, Forth Valley give people hope, Navigators give people hope – if we don’t offer that we don’t offer anything.