People who receive drug and alcohol services have been sharing their experiences to help improve services and meet the needs of those who use them.
At a recent workshop, the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health advocacy service, Newry and Mourne, funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA), met other people who access substance misuse services in Belfast, Derry and Omagh to share their experiences and learning and help improve drug and alcohol service provision.
Speaking after the event, Leo Foy, PHA Drugs and Alcohol Coordinator in the Newry and Mourne area, said: “The PHA recognises the importance of service user involvement as a way to ensure that services are appropriate and meet the needs of those who use them.
“Coordinating this workshop was part of the PHA’s ongoing commitment to this work, not only at service level, but also ensuring that service users become involved and have a voice in the New Strategic Direction on Alcohol and Drugs. We realise that service user involvement is at an early stage in Northern Ireland, but this workshop gave those involved an opportunity to learn from each other and increase the effectiveness of their programmes. This is only the beginning of this important work.”
This workshop builds on and develops previous involvement work, for example, service users have participated as trainers on Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland substance misuse and homelessness training programmes. They have also taken part in the training of social workers, through Queen’s University Belfast, and are involved in the management structures of the services that they use.
Gordon Higham of Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health described its input to the event saying: “Service users have a very important role to play in the development of services. We shared our work in this area and found relevant and effective practice from other drug and alcohol services, which we can use to improve our services. We will also continue to work in partnership with our service users, other community and voluntary projects, like those at the workshop, and the statutory sector as we all try to deliver the best services we can in these difficult times.”
The workshop, held at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), was also an opportunity to make recommendations to the PHA and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) on how the service users want to be represented and involved in service planning, delivery and evaluation.
Contact PHA press office on 028 9031 1611.
Photo Caption: Pictured at ‘Sharing the Learning’ workshop, to help improve drug and alcohol service provision, are (L-R) Gordon Higham, Advocacy Manager, Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health; Leo Foy, Public Health Agency (PHA) Drugs and Alcohol Coordinator for Newry and Mourne and Davis Turkington, PHA Drugs and Alcohol Coordinator in the Belfast area.