HELENSBURGH and Lomond residents struggling to cope with addiction to drugs or alcohol could benefit from a “unique and valuable resource” which has just launched in the area.

New Way is a volunteer and peer focused scheme designed to support anyone feeling isolated or in need of help due to addiction problems.

It replaces the Helensburgh Addiction Rehabilitation Team (HART), which was disbanded in 2016.

The scheme is funded through Argyll and Bute Council and NHS Scotland, and recruits volunteers who have experience of substance issues or may themselves be in recovery to work with peers to build positive relationships.

The organisation’s chair, Mike Tweddle, said the project’s impact has already been felt.

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He said: “Some of the work already has been astonishing and it’s a tremendous privilege to work with people in this position.

“We are now starting to build up a head of steam and it’s a fantastic little service.

“We are based in the town but we don’t as yet have a premises, although we are looking for one, and we don’t have a lot of money.

“There are people who are slipping through the net and are isolated for a number of reasons and they don’t have the capacity to engage with the services that are here.

“Our service is tailored around them and what they tell us they need. Sometimes that can be just a talk or help with transport for getting to a meeting. Transport is of course still a big issue in this area, especially on the peninsula.

“It all comes under the umbrella of befriending and it’s delivered by people who have first-hand experience of these issues. That makes all the difference. It’s far, far easier to establish that trust that’s needed to build a relationship with someone and help them.

“It’s quite a simple idea really, but it works.”

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By providing a phone call, support with transport to attend meetings or appointments, a day out, or simply a cup of tea and a chat, the project’s volunteer befrienders are described as a “treasured resource” to the New Way organisation and are offered free training, support, supervision and expenses.

Mike says the ability to form close personal bonds with users of the service remains at the heart of the project’s successful formula.

He added: “I like talking to people and listening to people and it’s important that we are able to develop that trust to work with them.

“It’s perfect for that. You’re not going to meet them with the formal hat on, it’s more focused on the individual, and that way we’re able to achieve better results.

“It’ll be shaped by the people we’re befriending and we’re flexible that way, that’s one of the advantages of being a small organisation.”

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Despite being in its infancy, there are big plans for the project’s future.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds for us over the year,” Mike said. “We are always looking for more people to volunteer and more clients to help.

“We’re in the process of a formal registration to become a charity, so that’s the next step. We believe in people and our aim is to provide what each person wants and needs.”

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) confirmed the authority’s financial backing for the project, adding: “This is a very worthwhile project which has received funding from the HSCP’s Integrated Care Fund to deliver a specialised befriending service to support people in recovery from drug and alcohol misuse.”