HELPING those who do not help themselves is a hard task.

Drugs and alcohol affect thousands of lives in Bolton and one group is targeting those who have never had help before. MARY NAYLOR reports.

THERE are thousands of drug and alcohol dependant adults in Bolton and many of them engage with the health services but there are hundreds who do not.

It is these people, who do not help themselves, or perhaps do not know how, that a new “assertive outreach” programme is focused on.

The programme is a new tack for the council’s Achieve service, which was set up to tackle drug and alcohol abuse in Bolton, Salford and Trafford.

Donna Turner, service manager for the Assertive Outreach Team at Achieve, said: “Many of the people we support have complex and difficult lifestyles. Their substance misuse is often one of many issues that are having a negative impact on their lives, including homelessness.

“Recently, the team have been through walkabouts in the town centre and identifying individuals who need support at the drop in.”

The outreach team uses trained professionals to find and talk to people who might never had had traditional help before ­— so-called "treatment naive" people.

Ms Turner added: “We actively engage with people across the community in their homes, in hospital and on the streets. In Bolton, this work has included making strong links with services who work with individuals to address issues that can lead to homelessness.

“We work together to address physical health problems, drug and alcohol misuse, debt management, social isolation and help people work towards gaining a tenancy.”

Achieve is run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) on behalf of Bolton Council. Its proven approach has had success in Salford where the service has been rated “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission.

Like other areas in Greater Manchester, Bolton faces a number of challenges relating to substance abuse.

Public health experts have identified drug users with a long history of dependency as an especially challenging demographic in Bolton.

These are often older people suffering with multiple mental and physical health problems caused by a combination of substance abuse, smoking and poor diet. A higher death rate among this cohort is part of a worrying national trend.

Between 2015 and 2017, there were approximately six drug related deaths per 100,000 people in Bolton. These figures are overwhelmingly dominated by people who are not in any form of treatment programme.

Achieve launched in January 2018 after £40 million of funding was secured by GMMH (in October 2017) to commission the joint service across three boroughs.

When it was launched Neil Thwaite, chief executive of GMMH said the mission was to ensure "no one slips through the gaps".

Achieve now has around 1,400 people on its books across Bolton.

In the last month up to 120 people are thought to have been contacted by the assertive outreach team.

Figures from October show across Bolton there are 2,748 people with what Public Health calls a problematic drug issue and 3,768 alcohol dependent adults.

Around half of those with drug-abuse problems are in some sort of contact with health services compared to just 480 of those with an alcohol dependency.

Most of those seeking help for drug addiction (75 per cent) are using opiates like heroin.

Achieve Bolton hopes to build on the work of the town’s previous drug and alcohol service providers by delivering joined-up treatment that addresses both substance abuse and mental health problems.

A key element of Achieve is ensuring users can access rehabilitation and treatment in a variety of ways including discussion groups, therapeutic work and accommodation support.

Bolton Council leader, Cllr Linda Thomas, said:

“Nobody suffering with a drug or alcohol problem starts out with the attention of becoming an addict.

“Addiction and substance abuse ruins lives, harms families and devastates communities.

“I believe we measure our community by the care we offer to our most vulnerable. The Achieve programme is the kind of service against which we can measure that commitment.

“In Bolton we take pride in working together to solve problems and help others. This collaborative approach, with the help of our incredible volunteer sector, marks a new beginning for drug and alcohol services in our town.”

Achieve’ assertive outreach team can be contacted via and 0161 871 2623.