Labour's parliamentary candidate, Catherine Fookes, visited Gwent Drug and Alcohol Service (GDAS) in Chepstow last week to meet Kaleidoscope CEO Martin Blakebrough and hear how GDAS is helping people struggling with drug and alcohol use. 

Statistics indicate that Monmouthshire has the highest percentage of people with problematic alcohol use among all five areas in Gwent. In the past year, GDAS provided treatment to over 500 people in Monmouthshire, offering various services, from innovative online interventions such as the 'Breaking Free Online' programme to healthcare-led and structured one-to-one support focusing on psychological and social factors. 

Recent data shows that 65% of service users were men, lower than the typical proportions across Wales, which average 71% men and 29% women.

Because women are less likely to come forward as their addiction often stems from violence against women, they are particularly under-represented in drug and alcohol services across the UK. To address this, GDAS has focussed on women's groups to create safe, welcoming spaces for women seeking to address their substance use issues. 

Currently, the charity is combatting emerging threats, such as the rise of nitizines, a synthetic opioid linked to fatal drug overdoses, by conducting self-testing kit trials.

Martin Blakebrough, CEO of Kaleidoscope, said, "Kaleidoscope was delighted to welcome Catherine to visit our services. Key to our discussions was how to bring real change to people who have developed a problematic relationship with drugs and alcohol. We discussed the failure of the UK Government's response to drugs and how Westminster needs to adopt the same health-based approach, which is key to the Welsh Labour Government's strategy. The expensive punishment approach adopted by the UK Government is unsustainable with overcrowded prisons and brings no positive change to those struggling with addiction."

Catherine Fookes said, "GDAS is a vital safety net for people struggling with substance use. From online intervention to special mental health support, their work is saving many lives here in Monmouthshire." 

GDAS provide free, safe and confidential drug and alcohol services for people living in Gwent: