In the first in our series of case studies focusing on how Phoenix Futures is responding to the challenges presented by the rise of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), we see how our B-Chilled Barnsley service is tackling the issue head on.
New models for new challenges?
NPS use is widespread but reports do suggest that this may be higher in some groups, such as clubbers, young people and the LGBT community. Phoenix Futures’ proactive initiatives including outreach programmes, engage these groups who may not necessarily engage with traditional drug services, or those who many not view their substance use as an issue.
Working in the night time economy, Phoenix’s B-Chilled is a free and confidential service delivering proactive and preventative outreach, providing brief interventions and harm reduction advice around club drugs and alcohol. B-Chilled’s staff and volunteers work to engage individuals in the busy Barnsley town centre, pubs and clubs, reaching people before the risks become a reality.
B-Chilled has teamed up with some of the biggest clubs in the area to provide information and brief interventions. The visibility and approachability of the team encourages a frank and open dialogue by talking to people directly about their own experiences and actively challenges assumptions and misinformation.
Charlie Plücker, B-Chilled Project Manager, explained: “a lot of people are asking us about NPS. People are aware they are out there and what they’ve experienced or heard second hand, but it is still quite an unknown area. People aren’t sure of the short term or long term effects which is an area of concern for them, and for us.
“We’ve had a really positive response from clubbers, staff and students about the services we are offering and people are engaging with us on their level”, Charlie commented. “The venues we work in have been identified specifically because of the age range of those frequenting, largely between 18 and 26, therefore engaging directly with those more likely to use substances experimentally and recreationally and to excess.”
Attitudes and lifestyles
With the focus on health promotion and equipping people with the information they need to make healthy choices, the team offer a realistic approach, relating to the attitudes and lifestyles of those they engage with. Free training is also provided to promotors, bar managers, bar and door staff. As well as providing a wider understanding of NPS, training equips staff working in pubs and clubs with the awareness and skills to notice the signs of use and help keep people safe.
For those who don’t want to engage on a night out, follow up services including a confidential phone service for advice, brief interventions and one-to-one meetings away from the party scene or traditional drug services, are provided. All services are free, non-judgemental and open to all, breaking down the barriers people might have approaching the service.
Engaging in new environments
At Barnsley College, a weekly Drug Clinic is open to both students and staff to drop-in to discuss NPS and other substances. In the lead up to the party season, the team will be delivering workshops as part of Student Services Party Hard Roadshows in the lead up to Christmas and New Year, specifically focused on club drugs, NPS and alcohol use to keep people informed and safe when enjoying a night out. NPS awareness training around the needs of young people has included the residents of a local Housing Association in Barnsley, aged 18 to 24, empowering them to make healthy life choices.
Social media plays an important role in engaging the local, and wider community, providing accessible NPS information. Developed through the joint working with the Phoenix marketing team, the B-Chilled website provides evidence based and user-friendly information on drugs and alcohol, personal safety and sexual health. Facebook and Twitter accounts further support the comprehensive B-Chilled media campaign.
Sharing our learning
We all need to develop new models to address these new challenges.
We need to continue to engage people in new environments.
Does the drug sector's approach to NPS do enough to understand user's attitudes and lifestyles?
What are NPS?
Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), also known as New Psychoactive Substances and legal highs, amongst others, are a group of drugs designed to bypass the legislative control of illegal drugs. They attempt to imitate the effects of illegal substances (stimulants, cannabis, depressants or hallucinogens) by either mimicking the pharmacological effects of a specific drug, or by subtly modifying the molecular structure of existing illegal drugs.
Get in touch
If you are a resident in the Barnsley area and would like information, support or advice around a family member's, a friend's or your own drink or drug use, please email B-Chilled at Bchilled@phoenix-futures.org.uk.
For more information about the project, to book the team for your venue, to enquire about volunteering or for more details on the training on offer you can reach the team via:
Download a copy of our report here.