30 May 2022

From the custody suite to community treatment and support

Increasing drug and alcohol referrals in Hillingdon

One of the key aims of the government’s 10-year drug strategy is to increase referrals into substance misuse treatment from the criminal justice system.

Rosie Robinson, Team Manager of WDP’s partnership service ARCH, saw a worrying drop in referrals from local custody suites during 2021. She shares how her training programme with the Metropolitan Police resulted in a significant increase in referrals and awareness of support options for service users.

During 2021, our criminal justice team at ARCH (Addiction Recovery Community Hillingdon) saw a large decline in the number of referrals from custody suites to our service. To combat this trend and find out why this might be happening, I reached out to the Custody Manager at Heathrow Airport and the DIP (Drug Interventions Programme) Drug Testing Coordinator at the Metropolitan Police.

Typically, this pathway brings in the largest number of referrals to our team so this decrease was impacting on the support we would typically provide for the service users who we would see in our clinic. We often receive referrals from this pathway for service users that may have never entered treatment in the past and it is a good opportunity to engage with them, educate and raise awareness, and support them in their recovery.

Feedback from our police partners indicated that some of the contributing factors to this drop in referrals were COVID related, including the impact on staffing levels. However, it was also felt that custody staff could benefit from a better understanding of ‘what happens next’ once they refer an individual and the important part they can play.

I was invited by the DIP Drug Testing Coordinator to be part of their Personal Development Days. This was to provide a training slot on the importance of drug testing people in custody and how to refer them to their local DIP team.

I provided training to around 1,000 Metropolitan Police officers overall, to give them a full picture of what we do in drug and alcohol services, what support we give individuals who come to us from the criminal justice system, and what the positive outcomes of treatment are.

The training sessions were a big success. I explained and showcased the treatment options we have at ARCH and how we stabilise this group of service users and continue to support them in their recovery.

It was really encouraging to take questions from officers who wanted a clearer understanding of the job we do and why we do it, explaining to them that we are all part of the bigger picture in tackling substance-related crime – with the referral from custody being the first step.

The feedback we received from the training days was really positive. Also since undertaking this training, we have been seeing increases in our referrals at ARCH (see graph below).


We have been sharing success stories and details of the positive changes service users have made since being referred to us with our police partners and will continue to do so. We hope that this will motivate them to keep testing, referring, and being an integral part of the recovery journey for many of the people they work with.

Partner feedback from the DIP Drug Testing Coordinator

“Your training gave an insight into what happens after custody and how the partnership working that is DIP, provides the help and support those testing positive in custody can access.

“You also highlighted a number of services your provider offers for individuals outside of those we test in relation to DIP.

“This was most helpful for staff to know, that they can provide individuals with your providers’ details to make contact for some support.”

Our impact

A 48-year-old woman called Hayley was referred to ARCH for her first required appointment, after being arrested and testing positive for heroin and crack cocaine whilst in Heathrow Custody.

Since attending ARCH, Hayley has been doing extremely well. She has been able to stabilise on her methadone prescription and has been testing negative for any illicit opiates.

She is really pleased she hasn’t been using heroin on top of her prescription and that her arms have also started to heal since she is no longer injecting since being in treatment.

She is working with her keyworker on being able to manage her money and is happy she was able to buy something for herself recently rather than spending her money on drugs.

Hayley has had a long history of substance misuse and criminal activity, so this is a really positive step for her in her recovery journey.

Find out more about our ARCH service