As part of Drugs Action Week, HELEN GABRIEL looks at a typical day for a Drugs Intervention Programme worker.

"I tend to arrive at the office just before 9am. Already waiting for me is a fax informing me that a client of mine may be released from prison today.

"I contact the prison and liaise with the health care team to find out what medication the client is on, and importantly has he had today's dose! I let our prescribing team know as they will need to prescribe methadone from tomorrow.

"Appointments are arranged to see me, a prescribing nurse and to initiate a homeless investigation so we can try and sort out his ongoing accommodation problems.

"With barely time for a coffee it's off to the magistrates court to liaise with probation, solicitors and custody officers to see if they have any clients they think would benefit from the Drugs Intervention Programme (DIP).

"On my way there, I bump into a client who is doing well. He is now drug-free, and starts a job next Monday. He is really excited about this, as it was one of the goals we set during our one-to-one sessions.

"I get to court and two solicitors inform me that they have clients that may benefit from DIP. I meet with one of the clients in the court cells. She has offences linked to her heroin addiction.

"She tells me that this way of life is no longer what she wants and would like help to reduce her drug use and get on to a methadone programme.

"We fill in a drugs intervention record which is the first step in getting her into treatment and support.

"Just when I feel I am getting on top of my day, my phone rings and it is the office. They inform me that one of my new clients has been released from prison two weeks early and has just presented at the office. I ask for him to be booked in to see me later in the day once I have finished at the court and police station. There go all my plans for the day!

"I meet with the second client to see how I can help. He has been using cocaine for approximately two months and feels that this just started as a weekend treat' but has now become a daily habit.

"He has never been in trouble with the police before and feels he has let himself and his family down.

"As DIP will help him to come off drugs we book an appointment for him to come and see me later this week.

"For me, court is finished for today - now to the police station. There isn't anyone in the cells for me to see today, but I saw two new clients in the cells yesterday who I have taken on to my caseload. Intervening with clients quickly is the best way to get them into treatment and prevent serious problems developing.

"I head back to the office and on my way I bump into another client.

"She has given negative drug tests for the past four weeks and is continuing to reduce her level of methadone. It's these little bits of good news that help keep me going.

"Back at base it is time for a quick lunch before I see the prison release client from this morning to review his care plan. This goes well and he states that he is now heroin and methadone-free and feels positive about his future. He still wants support from us to help him stay drug-free while he settles back into the community.

"I contact the crown court and after several transfers and long holds find that the client who appeared in court this morning has been released and is aware of his appointments tomorrow.

"Next I have an appointment with a client who was referred by the police; this is a conditional caution which comprises of up to three compulsory sessions to assess drug use and to discuss the implications/impact it can have on their lives.

"This session goes great as the client openly talks about his drug use (sometimes it can take a great deal of time and skill to get beyond one-word answers and grunts!) and would like to continue working with DIP after his compulsory sessions.

"It is now about 4pm and time to sit down and log everything I have done with and for each individual client on to our database and have a much needed cup of coffee. After an hour of paperwork and recording events, it's time to finish for the day."

Breaking the vicious drugs cycle

MORE than 800 drug users in York and North Yorkshire have received crucial help in kicking their habit thanks to the innovative Drugs Intervention Programme.

The figures were revealed by the North Yorkshire and City of York DIP, to highlight their work as part of Drugs Action Week.

In the last 12 months, the DIP has taken over 180 new cases on to its books in York alone.

North Yorkshire's DIP opened its doors in 2005 to help get drug-misusing offenders out of crime and into treatment and other support.

Part of a national Government initiative, it has worked with around 800 people across the county in York, Selby, Harrogate, Scarborough, Skipton and Northallerton.

Sue Maddison, who co-ordinates the county's Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Team (DAAT), said: "Drug users often commit crimes to fund their habit. Before the DIP was introduced to the county, there was a concern that offenders were caught, went to prison, were released and then re-offended without their treatment needs being taken into account.

"Thanks to the DIP, we have helped hundreds of offenders to break that vicious cycle.

"That not just improves quality of life for the offenders and their families, but also makes our county a safer, better place to live and work."

The programme brings together the police, the courts, the Prison Service, the National Probation Service, treatment providers, support services, Government departments and drug and alcohol action teams. They work together to provide tailored solutions for drug-using offenders from arrest, court, sentencing and prison through to post-prison and post-treatment situations.

The programme also makes sure that offenders who are reluctant to face up to their behaviour face some tough choices.

In York, the DIP operates in a number of venues, including the Magistrates Court, and the team has been distributing leaflets and publicity materials to court professionals and members of the public to inform more people about their work this week.

A spokesman said: "Often sitting in a cell brings home to a user how much they need to get help and change their lifestyle.

"DIP builds on this and keeps the momentum going to see someone through the time that making this change can take.

"Each day, a DIP worker will visit the cells and court waiting areas. They contact existing cases and more importantly find people waiting for court whose problems are linked to their drug use.

"By having a worker within the court, we can offer the option of treatment to anyone going through the court system."