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A new START - building a Substance Recovery Wing

Creating an environment that fosters recovery from substance misuse, and is based around mutual aid and support, has been high on the agenda for a number of years at HMP Lowdham Grange. 

Patients with substance misuse issues usually have to be drug free to transfer to a therapeutic community to receive intensive support, however patients in prison need increased support to achieve this. 

Following an increase in hospital admissions, self-harm and drug related deaths, in 2018 Mark Hanson, Prison Director and Jane Barber, Head of Healthcare, held an away day for their staff to focus on issues, options and devise an action plan to work together to tackle this growing concern. 

The discussions demonstrated a clear passion and commitment to making a positive difference, and a drive to make it happen. All the staff taking part agreed that a new dedicated recovery wing fostering an enabling environment and a full package of more intensive interventions was needed. Mark Hanson put his full backing behind the proposal, making it a true joint working venture. 

Kerry Harvey, Substance Misuse Practitioner, explained: “A new weekly steering group, comprising Prison and NHS staff, was introduced which agreed a plan of action for the new dedicated wing. We also held prisoner forums to discuss what they felt would work for them. 

“The new enabling environment was supported by prisoner custody officers who have the motivation and outlook to work on the area, and three new rooms were completely redesigned and furnished to create a group room, therapy room and an office for the substance misuse team. Recovery-focused motivational slogans were painted on the walls of the wing to help design a positive environment. 

“The gym staff created a 12-week plan of activities which allowed patients to achieve an entry level 3 award in ‘The principles of health and fitness’ and a level 2 award in ‘Understanding nutrition performance and healthy eating’. The Director agreed that prisoners could return to their previous jobs after the course to help keep structure in place and reduce the chance of relapse. 

“Peer support and mutual aid were essential to ensuring that patients had access to support 24hrs a day, and the prison supported a mutual aid contract with SMART Recovery, with the substance misuse team interviewing and selecting peer mentors as a valuable resource. 

“We also wanted to include families in the work, and a monthly family report – with patient consent – meant that they could be incorporated into the programme with a family invited to the graduation ceremony. The first cohort joined the wing at the end of January and graduated at the end of April.” 

The name of the new wing was agreed with the prison and patients and it is now known as START for Substance misuse Treatment And Recovery Therapy. The hope for the future is to grow and deliver recovery focused outputs, and promote a drug free environment in the prison for all to benefit. 



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