Belfast Telegraph

Fast-track addiction support offered to offenders on probation

Community service participants who suffer an addiction crisis will be offered initial support and assessment within 48 hours.

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL Stock photo shows a man holding painkillers.
PICTURE POSED BY MODEL Stock photo shows a man holding painkillers.

By David Young, PA

Offenders experiencing acute addiction problems while on community service are being offered fast-track interventions through a new charity link-up.

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) has teamed up with ASCERT – a local charity that provides support for people suffering with alcohol and drug problems.

The partnership will deliver a “rapid response service” so that anyone presenting with an addiction crisis will be referred for counselling or intervention within 48 hours for initial support and assessment.

They will then be offered the opportunity to undergo a 12-week programme to address their specific needs.

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CEO of ASCERT Gary McMichael and Assistant Director of PBNI Stephen Hamilton (PBNI/PA).

The project will target men and women, aged 18 and above, who are subject to probation supervision.

The board has funding currently available to work with 300 people.

PBNI assistant director Stephen Hamilton said 76% of people assessed by his organisation had an alcohol or drugs offending-related problem.

“There is a well-established link between drugs, alcohol and crime.

“In fact, one of the biggest factors that influences whether someone will re-offend is their use of drugs and alcohol… tackling this type of behaviour is a priority for probation.

This partnership is an innovative project that will ensure that its service users can get support at the time when they really need it Gary McMichael, ASCERT

“It is really important that we are able to quickly respond to crisis situations at whatever time they occur and we believe that this new partnership will help us respond to those in crisis and ultimately rehabilitate people and prevent them re-offending in the future.

“Many of the people we work with have complex needs, such as drug and alcohol addiction combined with chaotic personal lifestyles, homelessness, mental health issues, and deficits in family and community support.

“We hope that the interventions provided will also help to impact on some of the related issues.”

ASCERT chief executive Gary McMichael welcomed the new initiative.

“We are committed to ensuring individuals, families and communities are supported in the most effective way to deal with the challenges they face,” he said.

“It is important that when people with addiction issues are at a point of crisis they can get the right help quickly in order to stabilise the situation and avoid things becoming uncontrollable, but that can be difficult because of waiting times for services.

“This partnership with PBNI is an innovative project that will ensure that its service users can get support at the time when they really need it.”

PA

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