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Recovery Drug and Alcohol Services in Cumbria are continuing to provide expert support during the pandemic

How services are adapting to make sure all who are experiencing difficulties with alcohol or drug addiction during the pandemic get the help they need.

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) provides community and inpatient alcohol and drug services across Greater Manchester and the wider North. Alongside their partner providers, they provide support and treatment for drug and alcohol dependency by responding to the harms associated with addiction. The services are run by Unity in Cumbria. They are proud to have been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission for their substance misuse services.

COVID-19 has presented challenges to the ways Unity deliver services, as it has across the wider NHS. Strict social distancing rules have meant face-to-face and group appointments have not been possible. The pandemic also impacted on referrals into the services; with a noted a decrease compared with last year’s figures.

Despite these challenges, Unity has worked tirelessly to make sure that the challenges presented by COVID-19 have not resulted in losing contact with, or reduced the quality of care for those receiving support, including the most vulnerable. In fact, as well as enabling services to remain open, the pandemic has allowed them to think innovatively, introducing new ways of working and creative solutions to help service users adjust to these changes.

Examples of creative solutions for continued support that have been implemented include:

  • Developing an online coronavirus hub to provide regular updates about services and important information about how COVID-19 may affect health and wellbeing.
  • Ensuring a strong multidisciplinary approach for the people they support was in place with all partners to provide the best possible continuity of care during the pandemic.
  • Being a part of enhanced involvement with all partners through local wellbeing hubs and ICCs.
  • Regular liaison with Women Out West and Calderwood House to enable continuity of specialist support for women and homeless people during the pandemic.
  • Working closely with My Space and Cumbria Community Housing, as well as South Lakeland and Barrow
  • District Councils, to support homeless people into accommodation.
  • Working closely with the Cumberland Hotel in Workington and other partners to provide harm reduction training to better enable the support of accommodating people who have been previously homeless.
  • Partnering with The Well in South Cumbria to arrange food parcel deliveries to those needing them.
  • Sharing PPE with The Well and Women’s Community Matters when they were having supply difficulties.
  • Enabling the supply of safe storage boxes and Naloxone*.
  • Working with Pharmacies and Shared Care GPs across Cumbria regarding continuation of prescribing and access to surgeries where necessary.
  • Weekly meetings with Mental Health/Crisis teams to ensure the most vulnerable are being supported.

*Naloxone is given to reverse the effects of opioid overdose

As lockdown eases, Unity are engaging with their staff teams to review the changes that have been made to service delivery during the pandemic, to start to build back better and keep these new and innovative approaches.

Kate Hall, Head of Operations, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services said,

“Unity has always taken a collaborative and proactive to supporting the needs of our communities. Since the pandemic, this has become even more apparent. We are proud to have worked together with our partners in these challenging circumstances to ensure that we continue to support those who need us now more than ever.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties with alcohol or drug related problems, you don’t have to do struggle alone. Unity Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Services are open and here to help you in Cumbria. For more information on the services in your local area, visit www.gmmh.nhs.uk/unity.

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