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Harm reduction response team to provide early support to people in crisis in Inverness over festive period

By Val Sweeney

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A harm reduction response team will be in place over the festive period in Inverness.
A harm reduction response team will be in place over the festive period in Inverness.

A harm reduction response team will be piloted in Inverness over the festive period to help people in crisis either as a result of their mental health or through their use of alcohol or drugs.

It will involve NHS Highland, the Scottish Ambulance Service and Police Scotland in partnership with the Inverness Community Safety Partnership.

The service will be in place between 6pm and 2am during weekends in December and January in the Inverness city area.

It recognises the need to respond differently over the festive period given the absence of organised events and early closure of licensed premises due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Suzy Calder, head of drug and alcohol recovery services for NHS Highland, said: "This year has impacted on everyone in a number of ways including mental health and we know that, for some, this can lead to acute distress.

"The response team, which will consist of a harm reduction nurse with a background in mental health, a paramedic and a police officer, will respond to calls involving alcohol, drugs or mental health crisis situations working closely with the mental health assessment unit and drug and alcohol recovery services to ensure those we see are supported through early referral into services.

"The festive period can be a difficult time for many in normal circumstances but we recognise that nothing about this year has been normal.

"By having that early support in place it is our hope that by intervening early we will be able to provide support as well as reduce harm."

Scottish Ambulance Service area service manager, Steven Gorman, said: "We have been faced with many different challenges this year as a result of Covid-19 and all key workers have gone above and beyond, providing exceptional care throughout the year during an unprecedented global pandemic – this festive season will be no different.

"With social interactions being limited as a result of restrictions this year, it’s vital that health care providers and emergency services are able to provide additional support and medical attention to those who require help related to mental health, drugs or alcohol.

"We look forward to working alongside our colleagues at Police Scotland and NHS Highland this winter on this important community pilot to ensure we continue to provide the very best care to patients across Scotland."

Chief Inspector Mairi MacInnes, area commander of Inverness, said: "We want people in Inverness to get the right help at the right time.

"Police Scotland will still attend calls involving crisis situations and in many of these cases, that is still the most appropriate course of action. However, there are some instances that would be more appropriately dealt with by other partners in the harm reduction response team.

"This multi-agency approach will ensure that those who are struggling with their mental health or drug or alcohol misuse are given the right support."

Related story: Police launch crackdown on anti-social behaviour for Christmas

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