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The Hope Centre and Boots Pharmacy, Ballymena

Ballymena has a high drug and alcohol addictions problem and the Hope Centre is long established and trusted within the community to provide a wide range of support, education and help. They previously received BCPP funding for a Level 1 and a Level 2 project and used this previous experience to include family members and carers alongside their clients for this Level 2 project. Family members are suffering alongside those experiencing addiction due to the stigma and isolation that comes with addiction.

For their Level 2 BCPP project they worked with 14 people in recovery from alcohol and prescription medication addiction – nine men and five women. The group already had a close bond as they were clients referred to the HOPE centre and then on to the BCPP project. Adele Winning, The Hope Centre said, “Each session is information based with interactive quizzes and the group certainly do have fun!

Our Pharmacist Caroline always includes information on how the community pharmacist can help those with problems and about other support available. The group feel very comfortable and ask questions throughout the session and take part in her one-to-one clinics that are held at the end of every session.”

Adele said, “Many of the group have expressed how they share new information learned with friends, carers and family members. Caroline is also getting to learn more about community services in the area and can signpost other people on to them.”

Caroline Bustard, Boots Pharmacy said, “This is my first BCPP project but I had came to the Hope Centre before on an ad hoc basis when I had been invited to speak and I loved it so it was a good idea to get funding for a project. In the beginning, the group was worried about how much they could say in front of a health professional but luckily that quickly changed - their questions have given me great scope for learning. Our sessions usually involve tea and coffee, a talk and something interactive such as a quiz – this really brings the learning to life.”

One participant, Sonya, said “I wouldn’t be the best eater but the talk on diabetes and the amount of sugar in things was really eye opening. Talks made me more aware of what I eat and helped me control my diet. Bringing in people like CAP (Christians Against Poverty) to talk about debt management was just what I needed. I hadn’t realised there was help out there – I thought that I was on my own. Previously I had just been ignoring the problem.”

The partnership has been so successful because the Pharmacist is in tune with the participants and is friendly so the group can ask anything. There is great communication between the Pharmacist and the Hope Centre and they are always bouncing ideas off each other. During sessions they used a room at the back and they sat in there with the door open for one-to-one chats. Often participants had questions that they didn’t want to ask in front of the others. Caroline said, “This is a great group of people enjoying chat and food together. I am learning as a Pharmacist so we are learning together. People think Pharmacists give out pills and don’t know what services are free and available. We give advice that is relevant and accurate – much more than just meds. I have been able to talk through services that the Pharmacy offers for free.”

Adele said, “Due to the nature of addiction and recovery it can be difficult to engage participants for a long period of time however within this project, the core group remained strong and they all looked forward to attending. It has become a distraction from their ‘recovery work’ and allows them to informally gain new information amongst friends and then have lunch, a game of pool and enjoy complimentary therapies.”

Topics within this project included:

  • Anxiety and Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis and HIV
  • Sleep
  • Community Safety
  • Footcare and Podiatry
  • Managing Meds
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Oral Health
  • Mood and Food
  • Money Management
  • Medication Myths