Update on Alcohol and Drug Services During Pandemic

Update on Alcohol and Drug Services During Pandemic Image

The Independent Chair of Dundee Alcohol and Drug Partnership commends how local services have responded to the Covid crisis, and is optimistic their strong partnership working will continue as lockdown measures are eased.

Simon Little, Independent Chair of the Partnership, has described how services have responded to the Covid crisis. Whilst there remain issues of significant concern, overall services are achieving a great deal through close working.

He said, “There has been a well organised response, which has resulted in services continuing their engagement with those at highest risk; effective protective measures being put in place and alternative means of contact and support being provided”.

“Since November there has been a coordinated effort to respond rapidly and effectively to Non-Fatal Overdoses. Those who have had a Non-Fatal Overdose are at higher risk of a Fatal Overdose. So it is very valuable that throughout the current crisis that work has continued. The daily weekday meeting which organises the response to individual Non Fatal Overdoses has been uninterrupted. Outreach services were temporarily suspended, but these have been back in operation for some weeks and have been strengthened by becoming a joint initiative between third sector providers and NHS Tayside’s Harm Reduction team. That means staff are out and about providing direct health and social care services to those at high risk, including those at risk of overdose.

“The Integrated Substance Misuse Service has adapted its access to support social distancing so people can refer themselves by phone instead of dropping into direct access clinics. ISMS continue to take all referrals for drugs and alcohol, and offers rapid access to services. Assessments have been conducted in innovative ways - including telephone and video appointments; brief drug screening appointments, and ‘same day prescribing’ has been maintained.  To support social distancing ISMS community alcohol detoxes are now being delivered through assertive outreach to people at home.

“Important protective measures have been put in place. The numbers attending pharmacies for Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT) have been reduced. The circumstances of every individual receiving ORT have been reviewed to assess whether they can safely receive takeaway doses at a reduced frequency. By reducing contacts, these measure protect both those service users and the general public.

“Working in partnership with Dundee HSCP and key services in Dundee, TCA has redeployed the Safe Zone Bus to deliver an outreach service across different localities across the City. Safe Zone can be found in Lochee on a Saturday 7-9.30pm, with plans to extend this to 2 further areas. This is a vital service for reaching out to vulnerable people who might otherwise not be in contact with services.

“Additional safety and welfare measures have been put up in place to protect those who are subject to ‘shielding’.

“Recognising that hostels for homeless people were locations of higher risk, NHS Tayside was the first in Scotland to introduce testing of residents with possible Covid symptoms. In addition, anyone with problem drug or alcohol use in the community who is reporting symptoms of possible COVID can be referred for testing and the team will support testing to take place in their home.

“The normal way of delivering services has been severely disrupted, but most services have some form of telephone or online support available. Additionally, the rollout of videoconferencing has been significantly accelerated; a development that is likely to be of long-term benefit.”

In closing, Mr Little said: “I’ve been very impressed by the level of joint working across organisations. All across the board people have mucked in to help each other out. This has allowed essential services to continue operating. The cooperation and innovation demonstrated bodes well for the future, as we turn our thinking to safely charting a course out of lockdown.”

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