The challenges of the COVID pandemic have accelerated use of alcohol and drugs.
Drug and alcohol addiction is at an all-time high and our communities are paying the price.
Kieran Grant, who works for Nottingham’s alcohol liaison service, sees alcohol as the ‘lockdown crutch’ we’ve not been able to shift.
“We have normalised alcohol in our society in a way that is deeply unhealthy. A lot of our social interactions seem to depend on alcohol being part of it which is not the norm globally,” he says.
It’s not just alcohol that’s the problem. The number of people aged 55 and over who are being supported by drug treatment services has risen by 800% over the past 15 years.
With increased drug use, come increased deaths. The number of drug-related deaths recorded in England and Wales in 2020 was the highest since records began in 1993.
For such a time as this
Last year I felt a growing conviction that God was raising Street Connect up for ‘such a time as this’ and I strongly believe that we have a key role to play in reducing these drug death figures over the coming years.
We know that the local church can play a key role in this fight. We also firmly believe that a faith-based approach to recovery works and want to offer this more widely as part of the ‘no wrong door’ approach.
What can your church do?
Addiction affects all communities. Some more prevalent than others. Churches are embedded in communities all around the UK and well placed to meet this need.
The church offers a safe place to nurture new, positive relationships and establish and grow connections to both God and other people.
Beyond just the individual’s recovery journey, churches can provide a welcoming, loving, and caring environment, which for some, may be a completely new experience.
The church has historically cared for the disadvantaged and marginalised of our communities.
With addiction being a national epidemic, the church can respond with the right support and resources to tackle these issues from a place of genuine love and care.
What are the key components of faith-based recovery?
A truly holistic approach to recovery will include a spiritual element, enhancing the common Bio-Psycho-Social model to become a Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual model.
From a Christian perspective, this will include:
- Mature Christians teaching key Biblical based principles to establish a solid foundation, as any discipleship of new believers would include, married up with sound recovery skills and teachings.
- A good supportive network of healthy relationships and community, with a mix of peer support from others in recovery and a good supportive church network, are key.
- Ultimately, establishing a solid relationship with God and other supportive people, centred around intensive one-to-one support and/or group work and church engagement.
Providing assertive outreach
Assertive Outreach is in its essence, following the example of Jesus and forms a key component of Street Connect’s approach to engaging people with addiction and associated issues such as homelessness and poor mental health.
It is where we look to engage people who would not normally engage with traditional services as we connect with them in their own environment, on the streets of their communities.
Just last year, the BBC reported on the situation in Scotland where “people in the most deprived parts of the country were 18 times more likely to have a drug-related death as those in the least deprived.
This gap has widened significantly since the start of the century, when deaths were 10 times higher in the most deprived areas.
We need to get out and meet people where they are.
Offering place-based support
This is an upstream intervention and a key government strategy to tackling the effects of homelessness and associated issues. It is looking to tackle the issue in communities before people end up homeless.
For Street Connect, this means connecting with people in their communities and looking to engage them with the right support before it gets to the point of rough sleeping etc.
Residential rehabilitation and community recovery
I have been pleased to see that there has been a financial investment and commitment into increasing bed spaces in residential rehabilitation.
This reversal will play a significant role in reducing the drug death numbers moving forward and forms a key part of our approach as we look to continue referring people into such centres.
Community recovery also plays an important role in tackling this epidemic. Many can’t go to rehabilitation, therefore we need to be running programmes that can work for people as they look to undertake recovery in their local community.
Our outreach, community-based recovery, and rehabilitation referral services are what we are looking to replicate around the UK at this point.
Ricky McAddock is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive of Street Connect and has been leading the work of Glasgow-based Street Connect since it began in 2013.