Blue Light project brings support to people with long term alcohol dependency

Posted on: 6 December 2016

A national project that supports people with long term alcohol dependency, specifically targeting those who place a recurrent burden on public services and on society, is being rolled out across Devon.

Commissioned in Devon by Devon County Council, the ‘Blue Light’ project is an Alcohol Concern initiative to improve the way that support agencies engage with people who are particularly resistant to changing their drinking habits.

Such people often place a disproportionate burden on the community and on public services, and are major contributors to issues including emergency hospital admissions and re-admissions, and anti-social behaviour.

The initiative involves a range of Devon-based public services and agencies, including RISE Recovery – a countywide recovery-orientated drug and alcohol service that involves a partnership of Addaction and EDP Drug and Alcohol Services.

Ellie Barnes, project lead at RISE Recovery said:

“The perception exists that if someone does not want to change, nothing can be done, but research shows that these clients are not as unmotivated as they seem. At least 40% of higher risk and dependent drinking clients will try and change each year. The Blue Light Project provides the tools for building on this.”

The project prescribes a new approach to working with people who don’t want to, or are reluctant to, address their alcohol dependency, placing greater emphasis on support agencies to do more to encourage individuals to engage.

It requires agencies to focus their efforts, working together so that the person is seen often and frequently from the very outset, to encourage them to engage. In time, the aim is for the individuals to become more willing to participate in the normal mainstream treatments that are available.

The approach is already being used with clients who:
– Are alcohol dependent and have been for some time
– Have not or do not want to engage well with treatment services, e.g. have been referred several times a year but haven’t attended appointments
– Put a burden on other public service resources E.g. 999 calls, A&E visits, anti-social behaviour incidents.

And where it’s already worked, it’s helped agencies to manage risks and directly reduce alcohol-associated problems such as domestic abuse, fire deaths and health problems.

Cllr Andrea DavisCouncillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for public health, said:

“Simply by working in a different way – a way that means more effort is made by support agencies from the outset to engage with long term alcohol users – this pilot aims to target some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“It turns the current approach by many agencies on its head, and rather than expecting an individual with alcohol problems to proactively and voluntarily engage with an agency, it expects the agencies to do everything they can, as early as possible, to encourage that individual to seek the support they need.”

North Devon and Torridge Community Safety Partnership is piloting a Blue Light multi-agency group to address the needs of a targeted group of people in the North Devon and Torridge area whose drinking is at dangerous levels of harm.

The aim of the group is to improve the management of change-resistant drinkers, and thereby reduce the impact that they are having on themselves, the community and public services.

It’s hoped that the group will link in with other initiatives already underway in the area to increase collaborative working with this vulnerable group of people.

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