Digital doorways – our Hertfordshire service is creating new ways for people to access support

When it comes to the work of drug and alcohol services, innovation isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a lifeline for the people we are here to support. At Change Grow Live’s Spectrum service in Hertfordshire, the innovative digital pathway offered by our telecoms team is helping to take the pressure off our frontline staff and make treatment more accessible than ever before. By embracing technology and giving people more options for how they access support, our new pathway has seen a 14% increase in people accessing non-opiate treatment, and impressive completion rates of up to 96%.

A new pathway to support

This new remote offering began with the creation of our engagement centre – a digital front door that streamlined communications and service requests. This team acted as a hub to efficiently manage calls, emails, and referrals, making it easier for individuals to access services without facing the usual barriers. We wanted to break down the walls that geographic distance or societal stigma often built around support.

The new team’s success paved the way for further innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The telecoms team was created and began delivering advice and support to people online at a time when their ability to visit a service in person was extremely limited. We saw such potential in this approach that we decided to expand it beyond the pandemic. With funding from Hertfordshire County Council commissioners, we took the opportunity to reach individuals who might not engage through traditional methods.

We knew from experience that there are many people out there whose drinking or drug use is negatively affecting their health and wellbeing, but who might not be dependent and don’t see themselves as needing the support of a service like ours. Then there are people who don’t live close to one of our hubs, or who may simply find it too overwhelming or too daunting to make that first step and visit a service in person.

The digital pathway was launched to offer these people a way to reach out and engage. We originally focused on non-dependant drinkers, but over time our mission has expanded to include people who are using cocaine and cannabis.

A standout feature of our approach is its structure. Once someone has had their assessment, they are guided through interventions tailored to their specific situations. For instance, those scoring 8 to 15 on an audit tool might receive a brief intervention. Meanwhile, people scoring 16 to 19 can access a comprehensive program delivered entirely online.

Breaking down barriers

The impact of the new pathway has been substantial. Our approach helps people to engage by accommodating different schedules and preferences and enabling them to access support that’s convenient for them. Since launching, around 90% of people accessing support through this pathway stick with it through to completion, with as many as 96% of the people seeking support for alcohol and cannabis completing all their sessions. At the same time, the feedback we’ve got from the people who use the service has been glowing – people like that speed and the efficiency, and the ease with which they’re able to get the help they need.

But our success goes beyond numbers. By providing tailored interventions and streamlining processes, we’ve begun to tackle the challenge of the UK drug strategy's simultaneous demands for lower caseloads and increased accessibility. We’ve lightened the load on our frontline staff and helped us to reach people who might never otherwise have taken the step of accessing support.

People face barriers to support, from the pressures of their work life to travel limitations and social stigma. By streamlining our processes and tailoring our interventions, the telecoms team is making major advancements to breaking down these barriers.

As the landscape we operate within continues to evolve, embracing innovation and creating new ways for people to engage will play a major role in making sure people get the support they need.

We are keen to share our learnings with others – if you would like to know more about our digital pathway and the work of the telecoms team, please contact [email protected].