Welsh communities could turn into 'no go' areas without funding to tackle drug abuse, claims charity

Kaleidoscope’s main aims are harm reduction, focusing on health and giving people the ability to take control over their lives.  Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Recovery and harm reduction charity, Kaleidoscope, says substance misuse is likely to further affect Welsh communities ‘without funding, sponsors and support’. 

This comes as the non-profit organisation looks ahead to the future, after celebrating 20 years of service in Wales, with an event held at St Woolos’ Cathedral in Newport earlier this month.

Speaking to ITV Cymru Wales, Kaleidoscope’s Public Affairs Executive, Crispin Watkins said:  “The charity was asked by Newport city council to help with the drug problem. 

“A series of conditions were given for starting up, no budget, no staff, no premises, so we started in a church with volunteers.

“We were targeted at helping 100 people in the first three months. We did that and we’ve grown now beyond Newport through Gwent and we have services across the whole of Wales.” 

According to the charity's Community Engagement Officer, Sioned Hughes, being able to treat each service user as their own person is a crucial part of their approach.

She said: “You have to look at the user of the service as an individual, holistically, and that's how we can do what we do.” 

Sioned Hughes fears for the future of Wales if the right action isn't taken soon Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Sioned, who spent much of her school days in San Francisco,  compared its drug situation to the one in Wales, she said: “You can see if we don’t act now, what’s going to happen.

“My sister lives in San Francisco, and when I go and see her, there’s less and less of the city I can visit each year. We can’t afford for this to happen here".

She added: “I can see what could happen in the future if we don’t act now, and what it will look like in the next five to ten years if these services don’t have the funding, don’t have sponsors or support from the community.”

One of Kaleidoscope’s main themes is harm reduction, focusing on health and giving people the ability to take control over their lives. 

Among the services they provide are psychosocial interventions, such as talking-based therapies, and the ability to prescribe opiate substitutes such as methadone and Buvidal. 

“During the Covid-19 pandemic Wales really pioneered using Buvidal because it gives our service users their lives back,” Crispin explained.

“They’re not beholden to a daily schedule of coming into our services; they can use this as a substitute for heroin and get on with their lives.

“It’s not about abstinence, it’s about millions of people across the UK who will consume illegal substances on a regular basis and it’s about reducing the chance of harm to them.” 

The charity is also working to raise awareness of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone which anyone can be trained in using, which buys time to call emergency services. 

Wales is the first country that has a nationwide peer-to-peer delivery of the drug.

Sioned explains that “Kaleidoscope really is ‘boots on the ground’ with safe usage, clean needle swaps. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to drugs.”.

Sioned met a man who said, after learning about Naloxone: “I could have saved eight of my friends' lives with this.”

He then asked her: “Why haven’t I heard of this before? Why isn’t this available to the community?”

Sioned replied: “I agree! Why isn't it?”

When talking about Naloxone training within communities, Sioned said: “It’s a start, but it’s still slow, and there’s a lot of people that use drugs everyday that don’t know what Naloxone is.

“We go into the community and train people for free, and explain what it is and how to use it.”

She recognises that some communities won’t see the importance of Naloxone, even after learning about it.

“Just ask us. We go out to do it every week. If you’re 18 years old and you’re going out, it’s typical that you wouldn’t worry about Naloxone- but, it’s worth learning about.

“Everyone in Wales should be trained to be able to administer Naloxone.”

After celebrating 20 years in Wales, Kaleidoscope hopes to better mitigate the effects of drugs on substance misusers.

“We’re hoping more enhanced harm reduction techniques such as providing overdose prevention centres might be a way of reducing drug related deaths in Wales,” says Crispin

People can access Kaleidoscope’s services through a variety of routes including referring themselves via their local drug and alcohol service website or get in contact by email, phone or walking in. 

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