Three years of supporting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction has been marked in the heart of Harrogate.
North Yorkshire Horizons on North Park Road opened its doors to visiting dignitaries from across the county today (Friday, December 15), as they celebrated the milestone with volunteers and service users.
Paul Ivison, Lead Volunteer and Service User Rep at Horizons, said that while there was still work to do it was a proud day looking back over the years, especially having been able to share his own experiences with addiction to support others.
He said: "Harrogate has a big issue with addiction, but we are reaching a lot of clients. A big difference between us and other organisations is that clients are able to self present themselves. You would have to get a referral from doctors and present their medical records. Clients instead can ring up and make their own appointments, it is a really beneficial way of doing this.
"There is still a lot of work to do as there are still a lot of people who are out there who do not know about us."
He added: "We have two types of volunteers as well, one set are peer mentors which I am one of myself. They are someone who has been through addiction themselves, I had an addiction issue around seven years ago, going through treatment and recovery myself. We have around 12 in our Harrogate hub.
"When interviewing clients and doing paper work people say they have issues and we can say 'I had it too'. They seem surprised and you see a smile on their face. It is because they know they are with someone who has been where they have been and came out the other end. "
Alongside the Mayors of Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, the Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Barry Dodd applauded the work being done at the branch.
Pointing to the dedication of volunteers, in particular former service users who are now working there themselves, he said they were on the front line of supporting those with serious challenges in the area that might otherwise go unacknowledged.
Barry Dodd Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire said: "I am here today to recognise the great work that is does by this organisation, its absolutely brilliant and you can sense the enthusiasm and the whole ethos of the place, and just how lovely the people are. I am here to recognise that while meeting the volunteers and service users, with the work I have done over the last three years as Lord Lieutenant I have seen how much functions on volunteers.
"What's interesting here is that many volunteers were once service users, so they have extra passion to do good for their community."
He added: "Harrogate is part of the golden triangle and it would be very easy to assume all is perfect, but it isn't. There are some people who are very seriously challenged and there is a drugs problem, this organisation is on the front line to combat that."
Volunteers such as Ben Keer are an example of this work, now volunteering for 14 months at the branch after being treated himself. Now looking towards a career in supporting others he explains how helpful peer-based support can be.
Mr Keer said: "I was in recovery myself but I know I want this to be my career, just helping others. There are quite a few of us ex-service users here alongside other volunteers so it is a good mix for people when they come.
He added: "People from all walks come here who have fallen on hard times and just need some support. It can be a regular town drinker or an older lady who drinks at home."
Volunteer Coordinator, Stephen Flood, said he hoped that by sharing success stories with the community it will encourage others to seek support in Harrogate.
He said: "We are celebrating our three year anniversary,bringing together dignitaries and people from the community to come in and share some of our success stories, giving them insight to how we supported people with drug and alcohol issues over the years.
"Harrogate like all towns across North Yorkshire has issues with substances and alcohol, we are here on a need to know basis for when people need the support. We want to broaden recognition and awareness of a service like ours.
"Because the first port of call for anyone getting support is knowing where to get come, people might be surprised to find there is drug and alcohol service in the heart of Harrogate. We service all aspects of the community with all types of addictions from alcohol, substances, prescription medication
"The message is we are, loud and proud, if people need support its here on their door step."