ASCERT - Connections

Connections is the public face of the Drug and Alcohol Coordination Teams (DACTs). The DACTs are multiagency bodies made up of organisations from the statutory and voluntary sector and direct alcohol and other drug strategies in each health trust area.

The Public Health Agency has funded five Connections services in NI to be the operational arm of the DACTs. Connections are the first port of call in relation to alcohol and other drug issues within a locality for members of the public as well as service providers.

ASCERT manages the services in the South Eastern and Western areas, where Connections act as a link between communities and service providers, as well as having a role in awareness-raising and tracking emerging trends. They provide a range of awareness sessions for a variety of target groups including parents, community groups, sports teams and other organisations. Connections fills the role formerly occupied by Community Support and is also tasked with facilitating Local Drug and Alcohol Incident Protocols in response to issues that have arisen in any area.

As well as carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the DACT, Connections implements regional PHA initiatives at a local level. This includes Dry January, NI Alcohol Awareness Week, RAPID drug disposal bins and Responders.

Connections also promote effective, evidence-based drug prevention approaches. They are advocates for the Planet Youth Icelandic Prevention Model, which informs the activities and initiatives undertaken by the workers. They are also an authoritative source of guidance and support for other organisations who are keen to run their own prevention-based activities and can be contacted for advice and suggestions, which can avoid counterproductive outcomes or inefficient use of resources.

Another key element of the Connections role has been the establishment of Service Providers Networks. These events and initiatives bring together different services under particular themes. They encourage wider partnership working, not only within the alcohol and another drug field but also across sectors, including mental health, family support and children’s services.

Connections also have a promotional role in regards to collating and distributing relevant information to the general public. As well as keeping abreast of emerging trends and communicating these via social media (@NIDACTS on Twitter, Drugsandalcoholni on Facebook) and more traditional means, workers can help individuals navigate the different services in each trust area to aid them in identifying the most relevant source of help and support. To this end, Connections produces a “road map” booklet and can also signpost to get people to here they need to be in a timely manner.

For more information on the Connections services in your area, please click here.