Inexcess TV were fortunate to be invited to the UK launch of SoberLink in Exeter. Championing the right of all people who are alcohol dependent to access the best possible care the SoberLink launch was timely following Professor Nutt and others talking about an alcohol ”timebomb” in the UK.
George Williams spoke to many of the delegates and speakers including Ben Bradshaw, Exeter MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
So, who are SoberLink and what are they hoping to achieve? Below is what SoberLink say:
What is SoberLink?
SoberLink’s vision is to enable every alcohol dependent whose primary goal is long-term abstinence to access the best possible treatment and services available, and to champion their right to do so.
We are currently witnessing a sea-change in approach among leading treatment professionals. After decades of a harm-reduction driven agenda and serious under-funding, there is now a growing realisation that giving alcohol dependants the opportunity to attain long-term sobriety through abstinence-based treatment, and with it the chance to rebuild fulfilled and purposeful lives, is both effective and clinically and ethically essential.
SoberLink will reach out into the community to recruit volunteers with a personal, professional or vocational interest in helping those suffering from alcohol dependency. Our volunteers will be trained in how to establish a relationship with each client and their treatment providers and how to monitor their progress during, and, crucially, after treatment.
By maintaining this relationship throughout the journey of recovery from alcoholism, SoberLink will be able to produce valuable information and research on the effectiveness of different treatment models and their long-term outcomes. This information will be made available to service providers to enable them to shape the highest quality treatment options in the future.
SoberLink is also committed to giving its users and volunteers a voice on their experiences of alcohol services.
Many experts, including Professor Nutt, the former head of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, believe the UK is sitting on an alcohol ‘timebomb’.
The most recent estimates put the number of alcohol dependants in the UK at 1.1m. Alcohol-related hospital admissions have passed 800,000 annually, an increase of over 50% in five years, costing the NHS £2.7 billion per year and rising. It is widely acknowledged that funding for alcohol dependency treatment has been neglected for many years and there is a growing consensus that the situation needs urgent attention.
Much of the current focus centres on early interventions and controlled drinking programmes for the hazardous drinker.
However, at the level of alcohol dependency, proven, intensive abstinence-based treatment (usually involving a combination of 12-step, Behavioural Cognitive Therapy (BCT) and emotional therapies) is frequently not provided outside the third or independent sector. With abstinence now established as the primary goal of treatment for alcohol dependants, Primary Health Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country are urgently reviewing the gaps in their provision for alcohol dependants.
What SoberLink will do.
SoberLink will provide a structured and accessible central point of contact between the alcohol dependent and health, treatment and probation professionals. The first steps in seeking help can be a both confusing and drawn out process for the alcohol dependent or their family or friends. There is also a very real fear of social stigma.
SoberLink can help the client make quick and informed choices as to the most suitable options for them by providing clear and up-to-the-minute information on abstinence treatment services across both the statutory and independent sector in a given region and beyond.
The most crucial time in the recovery from all addictions is the first 90 days following conclusion of treatment. Without support, the transition back into hurly-burly of everyday life after the necessarily sheltered treatment environment can prove traumatic and trigger relapse.
At this key stage, SoberLink volunteers will assist clients with the challenges of a re-building a structured and full life without alcohol.
Due to many self-help groups’ traditions of anonymity at the point of public exposure, it has become increasingly difficult for official bodies to engage with these organisations in anything more than an ad-hoc way. As a recognisable and accountable organisation, SoberLink can overcome obstacles between self-help groups and health, treatment and probation professionals via its volunteers, some of whom will be established members of these groups themselves.
Our volunteers will assist SoberLink clients plan after care support including identifying, and becoming established in, suitable self-help groups or other therapies.
How will SoberLink work?
SoberLink will operate via a central website through which the client can make localised contact by telephone and Email. The website will include details of local treatment facilities, a simple to use and clinically approved alcohol dependency evaluation form, useful articles, links and other related information.
People who believe they, or a friend or family member, are alcohol dependent can then register with SoberLink for further help. Where appropriate, they will be assigned to one of SoberLink’s fully trained volunteers. We will always match clients with a volunteer of the same sex and with suitable experience or skills.
Like alcohol dependants, our volunteers will come from all walks of life, and many will have relevant personal or professional experience. SoberLink is committed to providing its volunteers with the appropriate and most effective training in establishing and maintaining on-going relationships with clients, and wherever possible tailor this training to vocational qualifications.
By developing partnerships with treatment providers, SoberLink can assist in improving on existing, or developing new, abstinence-based, high-outcome localised treatment programmes. Through the work of its volunteers and officers, SoberLink will be able to compile and provide much needed research, data and detailed studies into the effectiveness of the treatment options on offer.
Our trained volunteers will also endeavour to work in tandem with the client’s professional team -GP’s, therapists, psychiatrists, nutritionists and others involved with their treatment - in order to provide a seamless progression into and through treatment, and then onto after care and into long-term support networks.