Monday, March 4, 2024

New initiative to help drug users find a way out

ESSEX Police is beginning an innovative new tactic to support drug users by sending text messages offering help and support.

SMS text messages will be sent to potential drug users who have been identified following our investigations into county line drug dealers.

The message encourages anyone who wants help to beat substance misuse to contact Open Road, a charity that supports people with drug and alcohol addiction. It will include a link and contact number for the charity, which supports people across Essex.

Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford said: “We hope to reach thousands of potential drug users to let them know there is support available to them.

“Even if only a fraction of those people seek help from Open Road, we see that as a positive result.

“Drugs gangs exploit drug users and vulnerable people, and we know there are people who may feel trapped by their lifestyle or frightened to get help.

“We want them to know there is a way out and there are people who can help them.”

The intended recipients for the text messages will be identified as part of policing activity connected to drug investigations across Essex.

However, it is possible some of the contact numbers may no longer be valid, or are in use by someone else.

But we feel this bulk messaging initiative will reach potentially vulnerable people who wouldn’t otherwise seek help.

Joni Thompson, clinical and business development director at Open Road, said: “Open Road is a local charity that has 30 years of experience in supporting vulnerable people.

“We fully understand how difficult it is to take that first step to seek and ask for help.

“The service we provide is independent, safe, confidential and non-judgmental.

“Last year across our all our services we supported over 12,000 people, helping them to make sustainable and positive changes in their lives.”

DCI Basford said: “Every day we’re working to target and dismantle drugs gangs and support the vulnerable people they exploit. These will include people who are forced or groomed into helping these criminals. For example, where gangs take over someone’s home to use as a base to sell drugs.

“However eradicating the damage caused by drugs will not be achieved by enforcement alone.

“Helping people to get out of this lifestyle and protecting those at risk of being used by gangs is absolutely vital.

“That’s why the work of organisations such as Open Road, and the many others that help and support people across the county, are so vital.

“It’s also really important that as a community, we all recognise the signs of when people may be in danger or need help, because often those individuals don’t recognise they need help themselves, or may be worried to get help.

“If you, or someone you know, is being exploited, please tell us so we can make sure anyone who needs help receives the support they need.”

The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit is providing funding towards the costs of sending the messages.

Essex County Councillor Louise McKinlay, speaking on behalf of the Unit, said: “If we manage to reach even just one person so they seek help and support, then this is so worthwhile.

“Drugs have such a destructive force on our young people and our communities.

“Within the Violence and Vulnerability Unit we recognise that there are many vulnerable young people and adults who are being criminally exploited and we need them to understand that you don’t have to stay on the same path.

“For some people this could be a real lifeline; to let them know there is a way out.”


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