Nov 27 2009 by Tina Kemp, Lennox Herald (main ed)
A PIONEERING service for young people in the grip of addiction has attracted TWICE the number of expected clients to its Alexandria base in just six months.
Alternatives4YOUth, which launched in April, expected 30 young people through its doors in the first year.
But already 60 teens aged from 12 to 18 with drug and alcohol issues have sought help from the project – the first of its kind in Scotland.
Last week the initiative, funded by a £600,000 grant from Lloyds Foundation Scotland and Youth Justice was officially opened at 49 Main Street.
And Donnie McGilveray, manager of the Alternatives project, which has bases in Dumbarton and Clydebank, believes it will play a vital role in turning lives around.
Donnie said: “This is the first specialist drug and alcohol service for young people in the country and I’m really excited about it.
“When you work in adult services you see people coming through the door and you think if only we could have cut them off at the pass before drugs and alcohol affected their lives.
“Getting people at an early stage is absolutely crucial.”
The confidential service is available to young people displaying offending behaviour, leading disorganised lifestyles, experiencing difficulties with housing or whose family relationship may have broken down.
Senior project worker, Aileen Murray, said: “The scheme aims to equip young people with knowledge, skills and information to enable them to make informed life choices through one to one support, issue-based groupwork and therapies.”
A local GP practice has come on board to offer health checks to clients while West Dunbartonshire Council’s homeless unit is providing satellite flats to help young people in crisis needing somewhere to stay.
Once used, a flat will be removed from the project to prevent the creation of youth ‘ghettos’ and their associated problems.
Aileen added: “We are also working in partnership with services to offer young people outdoor activities and re-engage them in education, training or employment.”
Clients are referred from the justice system, schools and GP practices, but young people can also self refer.
“Their parents can come in with them or they can just pick up the phone,” said Donnie. “We want to make our services easily accessible.”
Donnie hopes to see the service expand – and similar projects launched elsewhere in Scotland.
He said: “It is sad that this is the first specialist project for young people with problems of significant substance misuse when we look at what has been happening for the last 20 years. I’d like to see this happening in other parts of the country.”
Donnie thanked the many groups and individuals who have spent the last two years helping to get the project off the ground, especially West Dunbartonshire Council and Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol.
He paid particular tribute to Winnie McHugh, former children’s officer with the council, for her involvement and hard work.