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Nottingham drug charity to raise awareness about addiction

FOUNDER: Sohan Sahota

A NOTTINGHAM-based charity that helps people from black and minority communities beat alcohol and drug dependency is moving to tackle the stigma that surrounds the issue.

Bac-In (Black and Asian Cultural Identification of Narcotics) recently celebrated its 10th anniversary after being set up by Nottingham resident Sohan Sahota in 2003.

But despite reaching this important milestone, Sahota said he still has ambitious goals for the organisationand wants it to lead a debate about addiction in ethnic minority communities.

He told The Voice: “The stigma is definitely still there and we need to challenge it. Among our key goals for 2014 is to do more outreach and media work with community TV and radio stations, mosques, work with the community as a whole to get more debate going. Also through the charity, we want to do community based research on alcohol misuse in minority communities because there is very little information about this, develop education, awareness and intervention programmes, and we also plan to develop a residential rehabilitation centre that will have up to 15 places so if people are desperate and want to get that support, they don’t have to wait for months and months before they get help.”

Sahota founded Bac-In following his success at beating addiction to class A drugs and alcohol.

During his own struggle with drug misuse, he recalled a number of difficulties whilst seeking treatment including feeling unsupported and disillusioned about the fact that the rehabilitation offered often failed to take account of his specific needs.

“The support services were unable and often failed to address my broader health issues related my overall recovery such as: cultural shame, stigma, isolation, ostracism, issues with distrust, spiritual crisis, institutional exploitation” he said.

“There was no genuine interest to understand, no cultural identification and no cultural empathy within these services to support the issues I was presenting” he said. “I noticed that much of the support they were providing very generic, a superficial one-size-fits-all approach. It was very external, focused on getting people into training and employment rather than looking at what was going on inside the person.”

During his treatment, he met with a number of other addicts from black and minority ethnic communities in Nottingham who were experiencing similar levels of disillusionment. This gave him the inspiration to create a service that would reflect their experiences.

He recalled: “I began to notice a number of other Black and Asian addicts through other self help groups, mainstream services and on the street, who were in a similar situation as me. I gathered everybody together one day and said why don’t we do our own thing where we can address the things that matter to us in our treatment and not have to explain to people who don’t understand where we’re coming from.”

The organisation, which has 13 paid staff members and five volunteers, helps around 100 addicts a year and their families. It adopts a peer led and more culturally specific approach to tackling substance misuse than is used in mainstream services.

Among the services it provides are peer mentoring, group work, prison in-reach, family/carer support, specialist training, drug & alcohol awareness workshops for young people and cultural competence training for mainstream service providers.

During its decade-long existence, Sahota estimates that Bac-In has worked with over 3,000 people from Nottingham’s ethnic minority communities, as well as people from cities farther afield such as Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford and London.

A number of reports have highlighted the fact that tackling the issue of drug and alcohol addiction in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities is a difficult task.

It’s especially the case in Nottingham, a city which has had a long history of substance misuse that has had an impact on all of its communities.

Added to this is the stigma surrounding the topic of drugs and alcohol is so great that many people choose to keep quiet and are often afraid of being judged, not just by their immediate family, but the wider community as being weak and unable to cope with their problems.

MISUSE

Furthermore, a number of other reports that highlight the regular failure of mainstream services to respond to the particular cultural, spiritual, psychological and emotional needs of the BME communities.

Given these issues, the role played by Bac-In is an important one.

Like several other charities working with minority communities, funding has proved to be a struggle. In 2011, Bac-In had lost 55 per cent of its overall funding that was granted from the Nottinghamshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team and Nottingham City Council.

But Sahota said he is proud of the way Bac-In has handled these challenges.

He said: “It’s been an incredible victory to help so many people as well as a financial struggle – this is a grass-roots organisation which works as a family unit. We’ve got to ten years with lots of faith, integrity and a deep belief in what we represent as an organisation.”

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