Fiona has been with Barod since 2010, working with service users in Gwent. She has a passion for service user-led treatment and a wealth of knowledge that helps her to best support her service users, including BBVs, domestic abuse and safeguarding.

Here’s Fiona to tell you more about her work

What are your areas of special interest / particular skills?

I mostly work with opiate users. As well as heroin, opiate use includes people with problematic opioid painkiller habits including tramadol and codeine. Opiate users suffer both physical and psychological withdrawals, they can be prescribed substitute opiate medication such as methadone or buprenorphine and treatment can take many months. As an active treatment worker I case manage and provide psycho-social interventions such as motivational interviewing and the community reinforcement approach and I work closely with a clinical team consisting of doctors, nurses and health promotion worker. My areas of special interest are safeguarding and blood borne virus testing. I enjoy supporting service users with complex needs which can include children’s services involvement, homelessness, domestic abuse, undiagnosed mental health concerns, chaotic intravenous drug use and possible blood borne virus infection. This means multi agency working with social services, housing agencies, domestic violence agencies, police and health services. I have previously been employed by Action for Children and Women’s Aid, and have also worked with people with disabilities so I have a lot of experience in supporting families. I sit on the Blaenau Gwent MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference for high risk domestic abuse cases) and am a safeguarding lead for the area. I am also a blood borne virus lead and regularly dry blood spot test service users for viruses such as hepatitis and HIV. I think my strength lies in providing effective one to one work with service users, helping to build positive therapeutic relationships to enable them to move forward in their treatment and onto full recovery.

What do you enjoy most about your role with Barod?

That’s an easy answer for me – direct work with service users! I joined Barod (then Drugaid) in November 2010 on a 6 month maternity cover contract and never left. Initially based in Torfaen, I transferred to Blaenau Gwent in October 2011 and particularly like working in this geographical area, even though the county is classed as having one of the highest rates of deprivation in Wales. I have a caseload of over 40 service users who tend to be very straight talking so I definitely need to keep a sense of humour! I am fortunate to work as part of an incredibly dedicated and professional staff team, both from Barod and the partner agencies who make up GDAS, all of whom have a wealth of skills and understanding of our service users and the issues they face. It is not an easy field of work but Barod have always been keen to support staff, providing a wide range of training and encouraging development throughout the organisation.

What is it like to work in your area of Wales or in your specific service?

GDAS is a large service covering the whole of Gwent. It is divided into North and South teams and provides treatment for drugs, alcohol and family support as well as a recovery strand providing a range of therapeutic groups and diversionary activities. GDAS also has a service to support service users involved in the criminal justice system called IRIS. GDAS is run by a consortium made up of Barod, Kaleidoscope and G4S. It’s a very busy service staffed by a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) telephone number and has been in place since 2015 and prior to this amalgamation many of the staff worked in the previous services offering substance misuse treatment throughout Gwent. There is a lot of substance use and a current waiting list for substitute opiate prescribing. The role can in turn be both rewarding and frustrating but overall I think most of the staff would agree that there is a sense of achievement in knowing that you have worked hard for your service users and tried to help them to move forward in their recovery. Everyone who refers to GDAS wants to make changes and to be happier in their lives and I genuinely believe we offer that opportunity.

Please tell us about your average day.

There is no such thing as an average day, that’s what makes the role so interesting. Our service users often lead such chaotic lives that, although I plan my appointments and therapeutic tools and approaches, if someone has relapsed or is in crisis then the day may turn out very differently than I expected! On average, I try to see 5-6 service users per day which should allow time for recording and paperwork. Appointments include assessing service users, care planning, providing prenoxad training (which can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose), discussing reduction plans and relapse prevention. There’s lots of paperwork which includes case notes, appointment letters, report writing and letters of support so I carry my laptop with me always. I am based in Tredegar but also see service users in our Ebbw Vale and Rhymney buildings. I attend doctor’s clinics and MARAC fortnightly, I attend social services or other external meetings most weeks and also travel to other offices throughout South Wales to training and team meetings.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

When I first started to work in substance misuse my manager told me “If you’re not sure of something a service user tells you then ask them to explain, people never mind”. And it’s very true, people often like talking about themselves and, unfortunately for my service users, drugs are their area of expertise. I feel I’ve learned far more from my service users about what it’s like to have a drug problem, to be homeless, to have your children removed or even to have contracted a virus such as hepatitis than could ever be obtained from training or books alone. Everyone’s story is different as every person is different and it’s positive that people trust me and allow me to be part of their recovery.