Kyla Thomas, Thara Raj and Tim Williams, Directors of the Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT), reflect on their team’s work in 2018-19.
The Drug and Alcohol HIT is a team of public health experts, academics, clinicians, service users and other professionals, working together to reduce the harm that can be caused by alcohol and drug use. Together, we support the development and commissioning of evidence-based services to improve the health of people dependent on drug and alcohol, to reduce drug and alcohol related harm.
This year has been a time of change for our HIT, with Leonie Roberts and Katherine Williams stepping down as Directors due to new work portfolios. We are grateful for all of their hard work with the HIT over the years.
We’re really pleased that Thara Raj, Public Health Consultant from Bristol City Council and former Director of the Sexual Health HIT, has now joined the leadership team. In Bristol Thara is responsible for commissioning services including drug and alcohol, domestic and sexual violence and community safety and is the lead consultant for health protection. She also chairs the Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire drug and alcohol prevention stream of the Healthier Together (STP) programme.
The HIT has continued to support new connections and projects throughout the year. For example, colleagues’ work on alcohol labelling and messaging has been reaching new audiences through the HIT. Work is under way to include materials from the labelling and messaging studies in local campaigns. At a national level, the outputs from the research are being considered by the Government’s Behavioural Insights Unit. We hope that this will help to influence policy.
We’ve had promising outcomes from our pilot of a service for opioid painkiller dependent patients with chronic pain. There were indicative signs of improved wellbeing, improved quality of life and reduced opioid dose. South Gloucestershire Council is continuing to scope the feasibility of developing a service for this group of patients in line with needs assessments and available funding.
It’s been another successful year for the low dead space injecting equipment project. This work to encourage the use of safer injecting equipment has been a great example of collaboration. A range of materials, developed with people who inject drugs, have now been published and are available for needle and syringe programmes across the UK.
It’s encouraging to see the work of HIT members gaining national recognition. For example, Dr Kyla Thomas has been jointly awarded the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) Fred Yates prize for researcher of the year 2019. The prize recognises early or mid-career researchers who have made a significant and specific contribution to the addictions field in recent years.
We’re grateful for all the energy of HIT members this year and we look forward to working with them, Healthier Together and many other local organisations, initiatives and people to build on these successes next year.