A pioneering new service has been launched to transform the lives of people hooked on drugs in North Wales.
The Dechrau Newydd (Fresh Start) programme will provide rapid-response support and help break the vicious circle of addiction and offending.
The scheme has been commissioned jointly by the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).
The support will be provided by three nurses working for Kaleidoscope, a Wales-wide independent charity that works to tackle the stigma faced by people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues.
They will speed up the process of providing treatment, prescribing alternative drugs such as methadone and Buvidal without draining NHS services, and helping drug users make sustainable lifestyle changes.
The service will dovetail with the Checkpoint Cymru scheme which was established by Mr Jones last year.
The aim of Checkpoint to divert “low level” offenders, including people with problematic drug use, away from a life of crime and keep them on the straight and narrow, to cut crime and reduce reoffending.
Offenders are offered the chance to avoid prosecution by signing a four-month contract and committing to seeking help from rehabilitation services.
They will be supervised by a skilled “navigator” and will face prosecution if they break the contract at any time.
Mr Jones said: “I’ve commissioned the new Dechrau Newydd service alongside Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to ensure the care and treatment drug users receive is safe and gets the help users need to them quickly and without being a burden on the NHS.
“The dedicated Kaleidoscope substance misuse nurses will deliver this service in line with Welsh Government treatment frameworks and other relevant professional standards and legislation.
“Kaleidoscope staff will be expected to ensure the care and treatment provided is safe, undertaken to a high standard and informed by up-to-date, evidence-based practice.”
He added: “This new service aims to engage substance using offenders and support them to reduce offending, improve health and social functioning, engage with multi agency support and make sustainable lifestyle changes.
“Police custody suites, courts, probation offices and prisons offer key opportunities to identify, inform and engage substance using offenders.
“These can be challenging environments to deliver treatment services within, especially when engaging with individuals who may be particularly anxious, mistrustful and vulnerable.
“The overarching aim of the service is to provide seamless integrated support to drug and alcohol using offenders which encompasses early identification of individuals across the criminal justice system who would benefit from substance misuse services.
“A tailored effective holistic support which reduces offending behaviour and substance use, and breaks the destructive cycle of substance use, offending and prison.
“It will also offer support to access the wealth of existing services across statutory and voluntary provision – building social capital, skills and confidence, and providing opportunities for sustainable lifestyle change.
“It will also challenge offending behaviour patterns, reducing the risk of harm to self and others and contributing to the multi-agency public protection work streams.
“This will be achieved through the delivery of a service which provides a tailored holistic support for those identified as voluntary service users.”
Kaleidoscope chief executive Martin Blakebrough was delighted to have been commissioned by the PCC to deliver the new service.
He said: “We already work very closely with Checkpoint Cymru and we also get advance notice of any prison releases.
“We need to meet the basic needs of people released from custody when it comes to their medical and social needs.
“We work with partner agencies and we all have a role to play. We have moved in one direction of travel and there is no going back to the old system which all too often failed to address the substance misuse issues of persons coming into contact with the criminal justice system or being released from prison.”
He added: “At Kaleidoscope we have an excellent working relationship with Arfon Jones, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, and look forward to working with him on this Dechrau Newydd programme which will prioritise higher risk offenders giving them a second chance.
“We have three qualified nurses working in North Wales covering the whole region. It means we can rapidly intervene so we speed up the process by fast tracking substance users to the right medical treatment.
“Our nurses can prescribe the right medication which takes a huge burden off hard-pressed NHS staff.
“Importantly it means we can substance users the help they need much faster which can only help reduce reoffending.”