Access to mental health support for people in recovery for substance misuse

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Summary of report content

misuse problems about their mental health problems

Most participants in this study had suffered mental ill health for over 15 years, some cited mental health problems since childhood, yet their experience of services over many years is disjointed. Participants described how services have continued to work separately, leaving services users “bouncing” between them.

Throughout the survey, participants asked for a holistic and comprehensive jointed support for their needs, including thorough mental health assessments and support, and help to be able to access housing and employment opportunities, as it would make a huge difference to their mental health and substance misuse recovery. Those with long-term mental health problems said that they were unable to receive a comprehensive assessment by the health professionals for their mental health condition that could support them to work through their recovery from their addiction. This assessment, according to the participants, should explore adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and be trauma informed as these might be related to their addictions. Their responses point to a limited understanding among the health and social care services of the multiplicity of needs in this group.

The findings suggest that this population do not meet criteria for access to specialist or secondary mental health care. Their symptoms are considered outside the scope of services within Primary Care which are aimed at managing common mental health problems and are not covered by the limited community mental health services. At the same time, they often do not meet the criteria for specialist/secondary mental health care.

Almost 76% said that they have relapsed and that their main trigger for it is related to unsolved mental health issues. They felt that immediate help and ongoing support rather than long waits would prevent relapse. This survey has uncovered a narrative of discrimination and stigma from health professionals. 74% of the participants said that they have been treated differently by the health and care services because of their substance misuse problems. Wider determinants of their mental health are likely to be their status as unemployed, their housing in temporary accommodation, and their limited social networks for support in a crisis.

The research includes examples of good practice and positive experiences from the support provided by We Are With You. Participants mentioned that their key workers were understanding, and they listened to them, and the services they provided were friendly and empowering. Several participants also indicated that the group therapies were especially supportive and helpful.

The report includes six recommendations, including about funding of support services, access to mental health services, integrated care and training for professionals

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General details

Report title 
Access to mental health support for people in recovery for substance misuse
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch North Somerset
Date of publication 
Friday, 15 January, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Monday, 1 June, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Wednesday, 30 September, 2020
Type of report 
Key themes 
Communication between staff and patients
Continuity of care
Holistic support
Information providing
Quality of care
Staff attitudes
Staff training
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Mental health services 
Community mental health team (CMHT)

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of long term conditions 
Mental health condition
What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
People who misuse drugs
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.