Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

My experience of working in Holme House Drug Recovery Prison

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My experience of working in Holme House Drug Recovery Prison

17 August 2018

I work at HMP Holme House, the pilot site for the drug recovery prison. It’s a jointly funded project between NHS England and HM Prison and Probation Service. The project will build upon existing good practice and look at new and innovative ways of working.

It’s a three year programme and is currently in its second year. We are currently implementing new ways of working. It’s really an opportunity to find out how effective a DRP can be and for best practice and lessons learnt to be shared across the estate

We’ve been allocated some funds to improve the environment for the men as we know that this can improve their wellbeing. Other initiatives include improving security, reducing supply and demand of drugs and alcohol and improving the service that we deliver. There is also a focus on rehabilitative culture.

New initiatives

One of the initiatives within the DRP has been recruiting a speech and language therapist within the mental health team, whose role is to help both the men and the staff improve how they communicate - identifying unmet or undiagnosed needs and improving relationships between men and staff and men and their families. Ultimately the aim is to support the men to move on in the community.

We also have a principal psychologist who is working within the DRP to focus and develop trauma informed practice. We know there is a link between trauma and addiction and so we are looking at staff development and training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

We have also implemented a connecting communities team as part of the Change Grow Live drug and alcohol service. They are working with the peer mentors and taking steps to improve the culture within the prison. The team works with the men prior to release and also into the community. Part of their work is developing asset based community development, identifying activities men can get involved in both within the Holme House community and also within their home communities.

We’ve set up a community council in collaboration with prison colleagues. It’s a bit like a service user forum. Every house block has its own council represented by the men within that house block community. My team attends from a health perspective. Once a month, two reps from each house block meet in a democratic council with the prison Governors and representatives from other areas as needed. We set actions for both staff and the men. Feedback and progress against actions are discussed and the men have the opportunity to raise any new issues. It’s chaired by the men as well, which is really positive.

A new approach

As part of the scheme we are implementing a new strengths based assessment and intervention. We are working with Professor David Best from Sheffield Hallam University and the Recovery Outcomes Institute who are currently delivering the Rec-cap intervention in Florida. The idea is to focus on strengths rather than deficits – look at what’s going well and generate a recovery plan to utilise the individual’s strengths to build upon recovery capital. It’s very visual and gives the men ownership of their recovery.

We’re taking more of a supportive approach - less punitive. If you’re doing well you’ll be rewarded. If you’ve been under the influence you’ll get the support you need. We understand that if someone is not engaged in activities for up to 23 hours a day with nothing to do, they may well turn to substances out of boredom. Being in prison is the punishment, it is not our job to punish people while they’re in there too. We are there to promote health and wellbeing and to support rehabilitation.

For people with the most complex needs we take a multi-disciplinary approach, we have structured support plans and regular safety intervention meetings. We also have monthly complex case reviews with our addiction psychiatrist and other partners. We work closely with the mental health team to make sure the men are supported effectively.

We are also focused on education, employment and meaningful activity. We are working really hard to make sure the new ways of working are embedded and sustainable so the good practice can continue and be shared across the prison estate after the three year pilot.

Keep up to date with the Drug Recovery Prison pilot on Twitter: #holmehouserecovery