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Test and Post – Home STI testing kits available

Until now, in Wales, there has been no centrally available self-testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only provision has been through private purchase, which is expensive and therefore inaccessible to many in Wales. Diagnostic testing outside the healthcare setting means there is generally no link to specialist services and the quality of care offered may be variable.

Following the Sexual Health Review commissioned by the Welsh Government and a project, supported through the Bevan Commission Exemplars programme, to develop a new testing strategy for self-sampling for STIs, a pilot service has been run successfully in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area in Wales. We are now expanding this pilot to cover the whole of Wales. Public Health Wales, in
collaboration with the sexual health services of the seven Health Boards and Signum Health, are leading this project which has been funded by Welsh Government. This will help inform future service provision in Wales.

From the beginning of June 2020, test kits for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can be requested by individuals through the Frisky Wales website . Service users work through the platform answering a number of relevant questions related to sexual health and gain information regarding local services. The kit is posted to the users for home use and is returned to the laboratory for processing. All negative results are texted to the individual, whilst those with positive results or identified as having safeguarding issues
are contacted by their local sexual health service for any necessary treatment and care.

You can learn more about the service, including user feedback and the the process, by clicking here.

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Coronavirus | Price of heroin in Welshpool doubles

Powys Service Manager Barry Eveleigh spoke to My Welshpool following a drop in Class A drugs reaching the Welshpool area as global supply chains are disrupted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

 

While less drugs coming into the area should generally be a good thing, those dealing with the problem day in, day out say that it creates the perfect storm with prices rising, purity compromised and addicts looking for other ways to get their fix.

MyWelshpool can reveal that the price of heroin alone has doubled in the area over the past six weeks, with experts saying it is “not as strong” suggesting that the highly addictive drug is being cut with “who knows what”.

There are also worrying signs that many addicts are not using a local needle exchange service which prevents the spread of Hepatitis C and other diseases. Only 170 injecting packs have been given out in March and April, compared to 420 for the same period last year, suggesting that needles are being shared.

“We are beginning to see how current travel restrictions are disrupting drug markets,” said Barry Eveleigh, Powys Service Manager at Kaleidoscope.

“We have seen people panicking in light of Covid-19, and those who rely on this illicit market won’t behave rationally. For example, some people with drug dependency problems might try to stockpile their drug of choice. Apart from adding to shortages of the drug, this creates several risks, such as using more of a substance than you planned to over a period of time, or worse, using too much in one go and overdosing.

“It could also mean that there is a shortage of heroin. We know that in the last six weeks the price of heroin has doubled. A £10 bag is now £20 and is not as strong, suggesting that purity is being compromised as heroin is being cut with who knows what.

“We have seen some of our heroin users shift from injecting heroin to injecting codeine tablets, which carries high risks of blood clots, swelling, ulcers and skin infections.”

Barry said that the charity is also seeing an increase in drug users turning to booze which could lead to alcohol-induced overdose scenarios, such as respiratory depression and choking.

“All of these harms put extra demand on health services,” explained Barry. “At present, such cases are limited, but as the crisis continues, who knows what may happen.

“Staff at Kaleidoscope are working flat out, contacting vulnerable clients every day to make sure they are ok and working with them to reduce the harm.

“Thankfully that hard work is paying off and we haven’t seen any overdoses or deaths. We are not only protecting the safety of our clients but also that of our community. For every client of ours that doesn’t have to see a doctor, or visit the hospital, that’s also an extra place for someone in our community to be treated.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with drug or alcohol issues, please get in touch with Kaleidoscope Powys by calling 01686 207111.

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Welsh boxing champion’s descent into alcohol addiction cost him his dreams

Kaleidoscope volunteer Russell spoke to Wales Online about how he’s come full circle, from getting hurt fighting for money just to fund his addiction to turning his life around and helping others to do the same.

 

Russell Pearce’s boxing career was ruined because of his addiction

When former Welsh boxing champion Russell Pearce found out he got paid the same amount of money for losing a fight as he would have got had he won, it sent him down a road, one he wishes now he hadn’t travelled.

He would take on tough fights, lose, then spend his earnings on drinking.

But what started out as just a harmless drink with mates, soon spiralled into alcohol addiction.

“Pretty soon my boxing career had strayed from national champion status to getting hurt fighting for money just to fund my habit,” said Russell.

Now, the father-of-one has turned his life around and works to help others to do the same, but it hasn’t been easy.

Russell started boxing professionally at 18, but his dream career then developed into a means of funding his alcohol habit.

The 33-year-old from Welshpool said: “I started boxing at six years old and as a teenager, I won a British Championship fight and began representing Wales.”

“I won my first fight, then lost my second and was still paid the same amount of money as I did when I won. I realised I could do nothing and still get paid between £800 and £1,000 per fight.”

Russell said he would take on difficult fights, knowing he would get that pay package at the end of it and could spend it on alcohol regardless of the outcome.

His addiction to alcohol started as seemingly harmless drinking on weekends, but he quickly realised he couldn’t drink like his friends.

“I got to that age where drinking was introduced and I was drinking too much and much faster than my mates. I  would be the one going home more drunk than the others,” he recalled.

“It was a slippery slope. Before I knew it I was relying on alcohol to feel I belonged – to be outgoing, funny, one of the lads – it just got worse from there.”

 

Russell said drink took over his life, leaving him alone and desperate to continue funding his habit.

He said: “All your money runs out and your friends slowly diminish and all you are left with is you alone in your flat with no money.

“I had that career as a youngster, to sitting in my flat alone finishing off one to two bottles of vodka – I spent a good two and a half years drinking that way.”

His desperation reached a peak when he could no longer afford to sustain his lifestyle. With his addiction still strong, stealing alcohol felt like his only option.

“Things came to a head when I got into trouble with the police for shoplifting,” he admitted.

“But, when I was at the station, somebody from Kaleidoscope came to see me and my recovery began.”

He is now finds himself employed at drug and alcohol charity Kaleidoscope, where he supports recovering alcoholics from relapsing.

Since joining its recovery programme in 2017, he has come full circle, and has now been alcohol free for two and a half years.

Russell described the challenges he faced during his recovery period, adding that getting the right support was key in preventing a relapse.

“It’s one thing getting sober for the first month, but dealing with life afterwards is what can be a struggle.

“The day to day life, like when you walk into a supermarket, often the first thing you’ll see is a pyramid of alcohol on offer.”

He said one thing that really helped with his recovery was honestly.

“I’ve always been pretty open with it – if you don’t tell people you’re struggling with it, people try and get you to have a drink.

“I have been to parties in the last two years where people have put alcohol right in front of me, but I’m pretty good at resisting.”

Now Russell is raising awareness for people facing similar challenges, and particularly those in the boxing world, where he believes drug and alcohol issues are heightened by pressure to achieve and a culture that makes it difficult to seek help.

He works as an engagement and team support worker at Kaleidoscope.

“Now I’m a better father, husband, brother and son. I want people to know that addiction can grip anyone, from any background. But, there is support out there, walk through our doors and you’ll be greeted with a warm smile and a cuppa,” he said.

To thank the charity for its support Russell will ascend the three highest peaks in Yorkshire – Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Inglebrough – alongside his wife Charlotte Pearce, over a distance of roughly 24 miles on May 30, 2020.

A fundraiser has been set up here, where money can be donated towards the cause.

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BBC | Coronavirus: Drug and alcohol referrals down 57% since lockdown, says charity

Kaleidoscope hit the headlines with concerns about the sharp fall in people coming forward for help during the pandemic.

 

Welshpool volunteer Rachel Cook bravely shared her personal experiences of addiction with BBC, with the hope of encouraging people to reach out.

 

Drug and alcohol addiction referrals have fallen by 57% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a charity.

Kaleidoscope said the “significant reduction” came after it closed non-clinical bases and recovery hubs on 18 March.

The charity’s chief executive said people who cannot access such help get “exponentially worse”.

The Welsh Government said services had “adapted rapidly” during the pandemic.

Kaleidoscope covers the Gwent area, Powys and north Wales, with each region seeing referrals drop.

Comparing drug referrals from 18 March to 30 May in 2019, and the same period this year, it said:

  • In the Gwent area they dropped 51% from 291 to 143
  • In Powys they fell 41% from 140 to 83
  • In north Wales they fell 73% from 106 to 29

 

There were similar drops in alcohol referrals.

Martin Blakebrough, Kaleidoscope
Image caption Kaleidoscope boss Martin Blakebrough feared people’s problems could get worse 

Chief executive Martin Blakebrough said: “With drugs or alcohol, if you’re not coming into services those problems get exponentially worse.”

It was not just about drug services but ancillary services like hepatitis C vaccinations, Mr Blakebrough said.

“We will see an increase in deaths if we’re not careful,” he said.

Kaleidoscope and other charities in Wales have changed the way they help people. Changes include video calls, online chats and more phone calls.

Carol Hardy, manager of the Living Room, a charity that helps drug and alcohol addicts in Cardiff, said: “The figures don’t surprise me at all. Being dependent, especially on alcohol and drugs, requires a person to isolate themselves. It’s the isolation and loneliness – that’s what the addiction wants.

“It broke my heart when the lockdown came in March because this is going to be very difficult for people and that’s what has happened.

Rachel Cook from Welshpool has had a drug problem for 20 years.

Drug referrals in Wales

 

The 44-year-old has relapsed four times but has been drug and alcohol-free for a year and a half since getting help four years ago.

She said she had found not having face-to-face meetings “very difficult”.

“It is different when you’re not getting that face-to-face contact, you’re not getting that cup of tea when you get in the door, when you’re not sitting down in the waiting room chatting to other people in recovery,” she said.

Rachel has been volunteering with Kaleidoscope for two years supporting others with their problems.

Alcohol referrals in Wales

 

“Face-to-face is so important – you can tell so much about somebody by just looking at them,” she said.

“It’s so easy to just say I’m fine, I’m doing okay, when you’re just absolutely falling apart.”

Wales’s drug and alcohol helpline, Dan 24/7, saw a fall in calls in the first few weeks of lockdown.

In April 2019, 439 people called. In April this year, 300 rang.

Helpline services manager Luke Ogden said: “We hear a lot on the news about how services, businesses and places of work have to cease operation, and it may be that people think this is the case with health-related services.”

He said help was still available for anyone in Wales.

Dan 24/7 said during May it had experienced an increase in calls, with about 120 more than in April.

Most concerned alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis.

Experts said the drop in referrals was worrying.

Rachel Cook
Image caption: Rachel Cook said face-to-face contact was important in helping treat people with addictions

 

There were also concerns about the impact of social distancing on services.

Retired clinical psychologist Richard Pates spent 25 years in the drug and alcohol field.

The former chairman of the Welsh advisory panel on substance misuse said: “One of the things that good addiction services can offer is that trust and building up a relationship with people.

“It is very hard to build up a relationship entirely on the phone.”

So much relied on non-verbal cues, he said.

“Those are very difficult to replicate,” he said.

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Pen-y-Fan Walk

Pen Y Fan 1

Tuesday 1st May Kaleidoscope saw staff from the Brecon Office join a ‘Spring Recovery Walk’ as part of their well-being activity alongside service users from Kaleidoscope and the Cyfle Cymru scheme. The walk was arranged by Christine Morgan who works as part of the Cyfle Cymru project, and was led by walk leader Phil Johnson of Change Step.
What started out as a grey, overcast day promising rain turned into a bright but blustery trek to the top of the highest peak in south Wales. 8 service users, 5 members of Kaleidoscope staff and one dog made it to the top and attempted to have a picnic which was cut short by high winds.
We all clambered back down the mountain for sausage rolls and tea. We most definitely did not end our healthy well-being walk with cake 😉
Staff from the Brecon office would like to thank Christine Morgan for organising the walk, Phil Johnson for leading the way, and the service users who supported us to make it to the top for a lovely day.
By Gemma Lorine
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Carols Of Hope

Kaleidoscope would like to thank Hope Church for donating £500 towards diversionary activities for the service users of Newtown. Clinical Lead Kath Davies accepted the cheque from Newtown’s Hope Church’s Youth Pastor, Emma Lewis and Associate Minister, Simon Curgenven. The Money was raised during the Christmas Carol Service.
The donation will aid service user engagement helping the community and people in recovery to live better lives.

hope church

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Keeping Wales Tidy

The Out Of Work Team in Newtown are carrying on there great work by holding a litter pick in Newtown. This is run by Keep Wales Tidy and facilitated by Powys Council. Call Paulina on 01686 610 422 for more information
KALEIDOSCOPE litter pick-1

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Foundation Group

Foundation Groups are held through out the four Kaleidoscopes in Powys. It was developed to create a sense of well being between clients that have gained a foothold in recovery and to move forward by enhancing the tools obtained at Kaleidoscope helping recognise pit falls and the reason for them, thus in turn creating positive outcomes within the group.

Here at Newtown we have just finished our Foundation Group. foundation

For more information please get in touch with your closest Kaleidoscope (follow the ‘Get In Touch’ menu).

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Women’s Recovery and Health and Well-being Group in Llandod

The aim of this group is to give peer support to women in recovery and to enable us to start to build into our lives activities that support our recovery and well-being; we are just starting to put together a program of activities.

It is a very informal group open to all women who are in recovery, we meet every Thursday and have tea, coffee and cake and discuss anything that comes up.

There is also the opportunity to have your nails painted and to have sports passes to access swimming exercise programs at the leisure centre.

This group meets every Thursday from 2pm -4:30pm. If you are in recovery and would like to join either just turn up, speak to your key worker or contact Llandod office on 01597 825102.

 

nails

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Kaleidoscope Cup 2017

The coaches for ‘We Wear The Same Shirt’ of Newtown and ‘Soccerholics R us’ of Welshpool, Dave and Craig respectively showed in there man management and coaching skills what a competitive game of football should look like.

All the players on the pitch displayed team work, grit and sportsmanship. It was a pleasure to watch.

Welshpool won the inaugural ‘Kaleidoscope Cup’ after a penalty shoot out with Newtown crashing the ball against the cross bar twice, but that spirit gave them the Man of The Match to Todd who dinked passed players and executed precision passes from midfield, topping it all off with a goal.

Kaleidoscope would like to thank Newtown AFC and all there staff and volunteers for there hospitality with a special big thanks to Ken who provided the after match refreshments. Also to Soccerholics R us for there willingness to compeat and I’m sure offer a rematch in Welshpool.footy team(Pictures provided by Newtown AFC)

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