The South Wales Argus writes:
“THIS week, we are running a series of features about Kaleidoscope – a charity which supports people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues in Gwent – as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Today, ESTEL FARELL-ROIG finds out more about their services from Sian Chicken, the Head of Operations for GDAS.
A CASELOAD of around 2,000 people is managed by Kaleidoscope in Gwent at any one time.
From its recovery hub to its alcohol and drug services, it offers a wide range of support.
Sian Chicken, head of operations for Gwent Drug and Alcohol Services (GDAS), said Kaleidoscope works with Barod – formerly Drugaid –and G4S to deliver GDAS. This is because in 2015 the five Gwent boroughs merged their contracts into one.
“It is difficult to say how many people access our services every day, as it will vary greatly.
“Across Gwent, we have 10 bases. We used to have the issue people had to travel to come to us, but now they don’t have to – we have bases in each Gwent area.
“It gives people options, as some people may choose to travel because of the stigma around substance misuse.
“A lot of the services mirror each other, so, if we deliver something in Torfaen, we try to deliver the same blueprint in Monmouth. We try not to get involved in a postcode lottery.
“There are some differences between areas, but that is because of their needs. For instance, in Monmouthshire, we have more alcohol workers as there are fewer problems with drugs in rural areas.
“Newport is the only place where we have a separate base for alcohol and drugs. In the other areas, they are combined.”
She said that, in Newport, the charity has three bases: Godfrey Road for alcohol services, Powells Place for drugs services, and the Recovery Hub for people who are in recovery and at their last stages of their journey.
With 150 referrals on average a month, alcohol is the group Kaleidoscope has more referrals for, followed by heroin.
Cannabis and cocaine follow them, she added, but workers don’t see a lot of referrals for spice, a new type of psychoactive substance.
“We are also seeing an increase in the number of people accessing our services who are homeless.
“We are finding this to be an issue as it is difficult to get them to stop taking substances if they don’t have somewhere to live.”
Ms Chicken said Godfrey Road is a very successful alcohol service. Its approach to alcohol is led by the person accessing the service – some people will be seeking abstinence, others will want to have control over their drinking.
“We want to find out the reasons why they want to cut down – alcohol is really likely to be causing problems in their lives.
“For instance, somebody who loves them is concerned about them or they may be missing days at work.
“With dependent drinkers, alcohol is ruining their lives.
“They are choosing to buy alcohol instead of food, or may be putting themselves in dangerous situations.”
Ms Chicken said that in the Godfrey Road base, Kaleidoscope also has an alcohol detox nurse. When stopping drinking would be harmful to the person, they are offered a detox.
This can either take place at a hospital or at home, also known as a community detox.
“If they need to go to hospital, we refer them. To have a community
detox, you have to have a concerned other – you couldn’t do it for people who live alone or have children in the house.
“A home detox is less scary for them and it is really successful for a lot of people.
“After their detox, a lot of people go on to take relapse prevention medication, such as Antabuse.
“When you take Antabuse, if you drink, the alcohol doesn’t have the effects it should have and makes you poorly.”
In the Godfrey Road base, Kaleidoscope also has its family service –a therapist who works with concerned others, she added.
Ms Chicken said there is a lot of upset and stress for people who have to live with those with substance misuse problems.
The family service is a counselling service which aims to help them with the relationship with the other person, about how best to get them into treatment, for example.
“But mainly what we do is look at that person’s wellbeing, about how they can keep themselves mentally strong. Dealing with those circumstances takes a toll on people.
“There is also stigma around so it is about having someone to talk about it.
“A lot of our family work is done in groups as they can support each other. It links them up and breaks down the isolation.”
Ms Chicken said around 70 per cent of their clients are self-referred, with the rest being referrals from, for example, housing providers or doctors.
Going into treatment is a big step as, even though they know their drinking is not in the right place, they talk themselves out of it with a million reasons.
“We will talk about their drinking and give them information.
“People are completely under-informed about the damages of alcohol.
“You will not die from a heroin detox. You will feel incredibly unwell and those five days are going to be hell, but they are not going to kill you.
“If you are dependent on alcohol and stop drinking suddenly, there is always a chance that you could suffer a fit, and people do die from fits.”
Ms Chicken said, in the last five or six years, there has been a change in the type of people who access the alcohol services, as Kaleidoscope’s highest referrals rates for alcohol are now for those aged 40 to 49.
Statistics show that alcohol use is decreasing in the younger group, she continued, but it is increasing in the over-50s.”