More seeking help for addiction
Stress brought on by the pandemic has led more residents to seek help for drug and alcohol use.
Focus Counselling has seen a rise in “people that wouldn’t normally participate in our services” as a result of Covid-19.
Leslie Grant, the executive director of Focus, said: “People are generally stressed, including those that may not appear to be.
“People are working from home, so there’s an isolation.”
He added: “We’re seeing some people that we traditionally probably would not have seen before Covid.
“There has been an uptick in people that wouldn’t normally participate in our services.”
Mr Grant said he disliked using the word “professional” to describe some of the new clients reaching out for help.
“I mean someone that has a full-time job, making a reasonable salary,” he said.
“We’re seeing those types of persons at least inquiring about our services, and a few participating.”
Mr Grant’s comments came with the announcement that Focus had hired Karla Trott.
Ms Trott is an internationally certified alcohol and drug counsellor, and her efforts will be devoted to women and adolescents specifically — a first for Focus.
The need showed how addiction struck all groups indiscriminately, Mr Grant said.
With Ms Trott, who joined Focus in April as shelter-in-place restrictions were imposed, the charity’s counselling capacity has been doubled.
Mr Grant said: “This allows us to provide counselling on demand. Previously, it was just me.”
Ms Trott, who began volunteering at Focus in 2014, is registered with the Bermuda Health Council and a member of the Drug Treatment Court and DUI Courts team.
She said yesterday that female clients came with “very specific” needs.
“There are things you can do in a women’s group that you wouldn’t be able to discuss in a mixed group, such as health aspects that women deal with — issues that can be complicated by drug use.
“In our community, women are seen as the caregivers. Sometimes it may get overlooked that women need care.”
Ms Trott said she had been busy the past few months “hitting the streets, interacting with other agencies, just talking to people”.
“You’d be surprised what that can do, just having a general conversation,” she said. “The first step is reaching out.
“That could be a phone call to Focus or just showing up at our door. We have an open-door policy. It’s a safe, caring environment and we’re here to help.”
Ms Trott said offering gender-specific counselling was valuable for women clients.
She added: “It’s important to build a rapport and a new relationship with women first.”
She said that addiction was “always an issue”, but it would be difficult to say whether drug and alcohol use had increased during the pandemic without data.
She emphasised: “This is something new. Covid, shelter-in-place — we’ve never had this before.”
Mr Grant called her hiring “a much needed boost” for Focus, which traditionally only served men.
“We’ve seen that need for women-specific treatment over the last year,” he said.
“We’ve had women saying they don’t feel comfortable in a co-ed environment.”
Mr Grant also called adolescent addicts “the most underserved population, from a substance-abuse perspective”.
He added: “Some might disagree, but they are, so we’re stepping into that arena.”
The drop-in centre and supportive residency programme on Union Street also has a new education programme for clients who have driven under the influence.
Mr Grant said the Government had improved the Flex Modules Impaired Driving Series for Focus, an internationally recognised programme that “not only meets the needs of the courts but also allows us to assess whether an offender could benefit from other services provided by Focus Counselling Services or one of our many referral partners”.
“Unfortunately, there is no legislation that makes the impaired driving course mandatory,” he said.
“I believe it should be mandatory for first-time impaired drivers. We’re slow in Bermuda to change any legislation. That’s a long-term project.”
Mr Grant said getting educated could make a difference for motorists who have ended up before the courts for drink driving.
“We’ve seen people who don’t even drink any more at all after taking the course,” he said. “Some say they still remember what they learnt.”
• Focus Counselling, at 36 Union Street, can be reached at 296-2196 or by e-mailing email@example.com
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