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Focus looks to expand services and hire staff

Leslie Grant, the executive director of substance abuse intervention agency Focus Counselling Services (File photograph)

The leader of an anti-substance abuse charity said it hoped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to help the organisation expand.

Leslie Grant, the executive director of Focus Counselling Services, added there were plans for building projects as well as additional staff.

He said that “ideally” the organisation would like to raise about $600,000 a year.

Mr Grant admitted the figure “may seem like quite a bit” but that the money was needed to maintain Focus programmes.

He added: “We have a few small capital projects that we are really looking at – one is a possible solar project on our supported residence building.

“The other project is to get the air conditioning replaced in that same building.

“One kind of services the other, so the solar project is to give us a break on the electricity that could possibly be generated by more usage.”

Mr Grant said that work to replace fencing at a site in St George’s, which caters for people who have completed a first step in their battle with addiction, was also on the cards to make the location more secure.

He revealed that two people were halfway through a separate pilot residential treatment programme, which was "going great so far”.

Mr Grant said: “A lot depends on funding in terms of expansion and growth of services … meaning the ability to be able to hire qualified staff to cover any potential gaps.”

He added: “We are looking at broadening our clientele for a number of reasons because it’s not just the street person that suffers from addiction.

“There are also persons that may be economically affluent who also suffer with addiction so we want to work towards becoming the agency of choice.”

Mr Grant said that Focus aimed to achieve certifications from the international Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities as well as the Bermuda National Standards Committee.

He added he also wanted people to understand what the charity did and who could benefit from its services.

Mr Grant said the drop-in centre on Union Street, Hamilton offered an “open door policy where anyone can receive help without an appointment”.

Services include meals, individual and group counselling and life skills training, as well as alcohol and drug testing.

Mr Grant said: “We have had to pivot slightly and do things a bit differently due to Covid, but some positive things have actually come out of that.

“It’s given us the ability to really focus on providing individualised treatment, more so than what could be perceived as a one-size-fits-all.”

He added that, like other non-profit organisations, Focus had to “trim the fat” as funding and donations dropped.

Mr Grant said he hoped that the stigma around substance abuse and seeking help for the problem could be reduced.

He added: “A lot of people are still viewing substance use disorder, also known as addiction, as a moral failing as opposed to … a brain illness.”

Mr Grant added: “Medicine realised that it was an illness 50-plus years ago.

“Because of some of the challenges that come with it, society still looks at it as a completely moral failing.”

He said: “Nobody sets out to become addicted … they may experiment, for some reason some people get hooked.

“Some people may use to escape or hide from whatever, some may use to celebrate and not everyone that uses becomes addicted, either.

“But the more they use, the more the risk increases of becoming addicted.”

Mr Grant added: “I guess from human nature’s standpoint we have different viewpoints on things we don’t understand or things that feel uncomfortable.”

For more information about Focus Counselling Services, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published January 15, 2021 at 8:33 am (Updated January 15, 2021 at 7:31 pm)

Focus looks to expand services and hire staff

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