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Having recently been appointed as the new Recovery Community Organiser in Maidstone, I thought it about time to introduce myself. I have been working in frontline substance misuse services for the past 7 years and my experience has carried me across a broad spectrum of service delivery, from therapeutic group work to prescribed treatment and everything in between.

It seems that for the most part of my career, trends around holistic treatment have come and gone. With the UK and Europe currently in the grips of austerity, ingenuity is required to deliver more innovative projects tackling social issues with a focus on value for money. But how can this be done without sacrificing the quality of what will potentially help people maintain a happy and positive lifestyle in the future?

As we move further away from the simple concepts of a harm or crime reduction philosophy and ever closer to a more person centred approach to recovery as a means of addressing problematic drug and alcohol use, this is precisely the right time for the implementation of Whole Person Recovery in communities across certain areas of the country. What is required is a radical change in thinking around how substance misuse can be managed at a local level, and difficult economic times can often breed the most viable solutions and outcomes. The RSA Whole Person Recovery: A user-centred systems approach to problem drug use report offers just that, bringing together on the ground bonafide research, with the opportunity to shape the very fabric of how the community as a whole can better support people both now and in the future.

So how will this work in Maidstone? Well this is an exercise not only in joined up thinking but joined up doing. It will involve putting people and their experiences at the heart of the community, breaking down potential barriers to recovery. By building this foundation of support, individuals and families can move away from stigma and feel more in harmony with their local environment and the people within it. What is required is a move away from the focus on drug and alcohol problems and shift to a more productive and positive approach to dealing with issues that affect lifestyle choice.

Due to continued negative media and criminal association, those who experience substance misuse issues have been marginalised to areas of society that make it difficult for them to contribute or feel the benefit of being part of a wide and dynamic community. It is time to recognise that the issues relating to addiction can often be symptomatic factors such as depression, bereavement or the need for escape from difficult social situations, and are not exclusively experienced by substance users alone. By involving RSA Fellows, community and business leaders from around the borough to invest their time and energy we intend to build a ‘Recovery Alliance’, which can support and recognise the skills of individuals to prolong and sustain recovery. It is a very exciting project that will challenge the stigma of problematic drug and alcohol use and put recovery at the forefront of community thinking. I for one am very excited to be a part of it.

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