It started life as a community’s reaction to drug deaths in their town, a call for better - and more widely available - support for those affected by drug misuse.
Fast forward two decades, and Drug and Alcohol Project Limited (DAPL) is a thriving charity organisation with three Fife offices serving over 300 people per week across the Kingdom - and celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Offering one-to-one counselling, support, information and advice to individuals and families affected by substance misuse, the service has grown from a staff of just four, to 20, with a further 40 people involved through the board, volunteer placements and student places.
Service manager Martin Denholm, who actually joined DAPL as a volunteer after reading about the opportunity in the East Fife Mail, said: “I’ve been here for 18 of the 20 years, and in that time I’ve seen the organisation change and evolve. We’re all in agreement that to achieve 20 years delivering within our sector is a huge success. There have been lots of ups and downs, but we want to let the community know that we’re still here and we’re still delivering and to ask them to join us in this celebration.”
The service started in Buckhaven in 1994 after a group of local parents and activists came together following a spate of drug related deaths. The group was dismayed by the fact that drug support was not available outwith the confines of GP surgeries. Within three years of starting up with the help of the local office and social work department, they had moved to new premises in Leven.
Martin said: “What I have tried to do, and what managers before me have tried to do, is to keep that community activism very much alive in the delivery of what we do. When you consider that we are an organsation that is serving over 300 people a week over the length and bredth of Fife, DAPL has turned into an organisation that consistently year on year hasn’t lost sight of what we’re about.”
DAPL now has offices in Leven, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes, and also sees clients in a variety of outreach locations such as GP surgeries and social work offices. As Martin points out, “we didn’t go marching out there to get DAPL into Fife - Fife asked for us.”
Liam Thomson, business coordinator, notes that DAPL is unique in the fact that it is the only service throughout Fife that provides drugs and alcohol counselling for all ages. “The statistics for the organisation show that for those that engage with us for counselling, over 80 per cent of them will reduce or cease the use of a substance. We’re quite proud of that and I think it shows that we are making a difference.”
The service also has a strong presence in the majority of Fife’s high schools, and is the only organisation which offers confidential counselling to young people.
“We were one of the first in Scotland to take the risk of providing confidential misuse counselling to children,” said Martin. “Everyone thought it was an ethical nightmare, but we’ve done it and since 2000 we’ve continued to do it and in the 14 years we’re learned lessons all the way along.”
He added: “I think the biggest change from when I joined is in people’s understanding of substance misuse. When I started, there was still the Rab C Nesbitt sterotype for alcohol and Trainspotting stereotype for opiats - that was people’s understanding of drugs.
“Now, you wouldn’t know if someone was coming to our offices for a meeting or for a therapy session. It’s not as chaotic as it was. There is still chaos, as 60 per cent of people still don’t access these services at all, but we get the 40 per cent who do.”
Although DAPL receives referrals from GPs, social work, school guidance departments, addication services and other third sector organisations, Martin says that the majority of people coming through the doors are still self referred.
“I think the biggest thing for us in terms of success is footfall,” said Martin. “Self-referral is our biggest route and alwasy has been. For me, that’s the best marketing because it comes from people who’ve experienced the service, told their pal, and they have come to us.”
He added: “I’ve seen much heartache, but I’ve seen a lot of success as well, and I think that’s an important thing to celebrate; that people do recover and recovery is infectious, it’s just about getting the right people around you to support you.”
DAPL will be holding an open morning at its offices in Leven on Friday, August 22, which the public are welcome to attend. There will be taster sessions demonstrating a variety of theaputic approaches that are used with clients, and free tea/coffee and cakes will be available.