Building professional networks in local communities to improve wellbeing outcomes in alcohol and drug services

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

  • Led by Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with Safer and Sustainable Communities Partnership, Sheffield Hallam University, and Sheffield Alcohol Support Service.
  • Implemented with alcohol and drug workers in Sheffield.
  • Aimed to increase community participation of vulnerable populations and improve their wellbeing, by improving frontline professionals’ capacity to support community engagement.
  • Project ran from March 2016 to September 2017.

Wellbeing is intrinsically linked to social capital and a sense of connection to supportive pro-social networks and more broadly to active participation in the community. Alcohol and illicit drugs cause significant harm to families, communities and society, as well as contributing to the global burden of disease. This means vulnerable and excluded populations, such as people with alcohol and/or drug (AOD) misuse issues who are new to recovery, may have limited access to positive support and social capital.

This REC-CONNECT project provided a mechanism to create connections and social capital for people with AOD misuse issues to support their recovery journeys. It was innovative in bringing together three emerging methods: Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), Assertive Linkage (AL), and Social Identity Mapping (SIM).

REC-CONNECT's success was enabled by the strong existing recovery community in Sheffield and the partnership development between NHS and the voluntary sector services who came together in this project. A key challenge was coordinating schedules between a cohort of 17 fragile participants and busy AOD workers, volunteers and peers.

REC-CONNECT has generated a wealth of data and a new network of engagements with pro-social assets in Sheffield and surrounding areas. It has also successfully trained over 40 AOD workers, volunteers and peers in ABCD, AL and SIM. Nearly 20 new to recovery service users have been connected through this group, and the methods are being embedded into routine practice in both NHS and third-sector sites throughout the city.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please  Dr Ruta Rele, Consultant Psychiatrist, Substance Misuse Service, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.

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