Breaking through the cultural barriers

North Yorkshire Horizons, Selby blog by Mark Vidgen

It is often the case that people from minority ethnic groups feel treatment services don’t meet their needs, or are not culturally appropriate for them.

In addition, literature suggests that awareness among BME communities of the services available to them, and how they can help, can be limited.

There is a need for clearer, better targeted information to help these groups access drug and alcohol treatment services and fully understand the impact of drugs and alcohol on their communities.

Having staff and volunteers who are competent in diversity and cultural sensitivity, with access to interpreters or advocates trained in substance misuse can also make a difference.

The type of substances used varies amongst different ethnic groups. For example, evidence has found that, when compared to the general treatment population, some service users from minority groups are less likely to use heroin, but are more likely to use crack as their primary drug. In turn, it is crucial that local service provision matches local need.

As opposed to the English drinking culture of going out to drink, the Polish community are far more likely to stay at home and consume alcohol in private homes. This trend seems to stem from a willingness to stay within a communal group in which there are no language or culture clashes.

For many of the Poles who have emigrated to Selby, this type of social situation is far cheaper to attend or host and is therefore more appealing than going out. The point at which this lifestyle seems to advocate alcoholism, however, is when drinking in the home environment is seen as an acceptable pastime.

North Yorkshire Horizons Selby are striving to break down these perceived cultural barriers. A, a Polish National wanted to give something back after completing treatment and joining the Selby team as a volunteer.

He is now “spreading the word” within his Polish community, advocating for North Yorkshire Horizons and breaking the perceived barriers amongst his peers. A  is attending Polish churches, developing and delivering service user led recovery focused enterprises, developing and delivering peer mentoring and support.

The growth of volunteering and service user involvement in the design and delivery of the service has made a large contribution to North Yorkshire Horizons, ensuring we are user-friendly and resulting in significant positive change for the people, like AA, who would like to engage but culturally not sure how to!

by Mark Vidgen

Assistant Director

North Yorkshire Horizons

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