COVID-19 has not stopped addiction support service from helping Falkirk's most vulnerable people
While all of us have found the going tough during lockdown, there are people – those with addiction issues – who had been having hard times before the COVID-19 virus was even heard of.
Those people, some of the most vulnerable in society, are finding it even harder to cope with life now and that is why the work of health and social care charity Change Grow Live is so important.
Delivering the Forth Valley Substance Use Recovery Service, it supports people throughout the area affected by substance use, smoking, homelessness, offending, financial problems, childhood trauma and abuse.
Norma Howarth, Forth Valley Recovery Service manager, said: “I am extremely proud of how my team have adapted to this new reality to provide vital support to people in need of treatment, support and advice. Our focus has been on working to make sure people continue to engage with treatment services, access support when they need it and stay safe.
"We adapted our services to offer telephone, video and digital support and the Harm Reduction team has continued to provide street outreach across the area to support people in their local communities.
"Efforts have also been made to ensure people have access to naloxone to help prevent drug-related deaths."
Lockdown has had an impact on everyone’s mental health and well being, but more so for those with addiction issues.
Norma said: “We know there are close correlations between poor mental health and substance use, and that social isolation and loneliness can intensify levels of drinking and drug use.
"That’s why we have tried to keep people engaged with treatment and have worked hard to maintain regular contact by any means possible, with a particular focus on supporting people to manage high levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness which can all increase substance use.”
COVID-19 has changed the way Norma and the team deliver services and led to more virtual online support.
Norma said: “However, face-to-face support will always be important,” said Norman. “Especially for more vulnerable clients, and those who may not have access to the internet and, in some cases, even a telephone.
"We also introduced physical distancing, use of PPE and increased hygiene and infection prevention measures to ensure the safety and well being of people accessing services, as well as our staff.
"Different people with varying levels of need will benefit from different levels of remote and face-to-face support, so in each individual case we need to find a balance that is right and manage any risks effectively.”
Believe it not, there have been some positive aspects the service can take from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norma said: “I think our digital confidence has grown across our local teams, and that applies for both people using services and staff. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the lockdowns, partnership work across Forth Valley has continued to thrive.
"We are working with partners in health, social care and other community organisations such as local food banks to support our service users. As lockdown restrictions hopefully start to ease, we expect to see more people coming back into our service centres in-person.”
Calll 0808 196 2188 or visit www.changegrowlive.org for more information.