Local Spotlight: National recognition for Warrington’s Drug and Alcohol Service

Warrington’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service – Change, Grow, Live (‘CGL’) – has been recognised regionally and nationally as an example of good practice after “bucking the national trend.”

At an Office for Health and Disparities (OHID) event in Manchester in 2023, Warrington’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service was profiled, following an increase of adults in treatment across two specific cohorts – ‘non-opiates and alcohol’ and also ‘alcohol’ alone.

For Warrington, the increase as of Q4 2022/2023 for non-opiates and alcohol went from the baseline of 143 to 302 and then for alcohol from 356 to 431 within the same period.

After further reflection as to how this has happened, several learning experiences came to light:

Post-covid numbers coming into service

It was noted that during and immediately post COVID-19, numbers of new people coming into treatment was quite static. Once the COVID-19 timeline expired, service users felt more comfortable to engage into service, perhaps because their use of alcohol and non-opiates to help manage their feelings during COVID-19 had got to a point that they needed some support. The service re-operationalised their open access offer as quickly as possible (Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings), allowing delivery of same day assessments alongside a planned appointments diary.

Work with partners and referral routes into treatment – A lot of proactive work was carried out by the service (CGL) to speak to key stakeholders to develop robust referral routes into treatment. Part of the emphasis was driven by the local Combatting Drug and Alcohol Partnership, which urged partners to work in a more collaborative approach to support people into treatment.

More focussed work with Probation colleagues to provide a whole-system approach helped with engaging offenders into treatment, with co-ordination of cases, named probation, and treatment staff leads and co-located delivery. In addition, a real effort concentrating on continuity of care and the pathway from prison to community paid dividends, with 69% of prison leavers with a continued treatment need picked up in the community within three weeks of their release (between March 2022 and February 2023), compared to 42% nationally and a local baseline of 44% in March 2022.

In addition, the Police continued to refer in strong numbers via the community resolution route and Vulnerable Person Assessments. CGL also offered an in-reach provision to the three homeless accommodations in the town, helping to re-engage people who may be lost to treatment with staff going to where they are, as opposed to expecting service users to come into the main service building.

Strengthening integration of services

CGL staff were finally allowed back into Warrington Hospital to provide in-reach support, which had been interrupted by restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed CGL to have a presence in A&E and on the wards (on Monday’s and Thursday’s between 9:00am and 12.00pm), to help engage and refer appropriate patients requiring substance misuse treatment and support.

In addition, the local Hospital Repeat Attendees meetings were re-introduced, bringing together key partners to share information and intelligence to help prevent/reduce repeat alcohol-related hospital attendances and engage identified individuals into the appropriate treatment/support services.

Strengthening the professional workforce

CGL continued to support and strengthen partner’s awareness of and response to substance misuse issues, with training delivered to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff and the Council’s mental health outreach team. Probation staff were also trained in naloxone administering, with three kits provided to the local team.

For more information about Warrington’s CGL, visit https://www.changegrowlive.org/pathways-to-recovery-warrington/info