Could the cycle of abuse be broken by thinking outside of the system?

Challenge

The Municipality of Odense wanted to shift their substance abuse treatment approach to begin with the citizen, instead of with the system.

Approach

We visited the homes of citizens battling addiction to really listen to them. We wanted to learn about their experiences at the rehabilitation centers, but also their dreams and daily lives. We needed to find out: What can help them kick the habit? What holds them back?

Result

We provided a fresh viewpoint for the municipality and developed a new strategy that could better help citizens cope with their disorders and help them out of the cycle of abuse.

Odense municipality

A human centric approach
to strengthen substance abuse treatment

"We have used IS IT A BIRD to give us a greater understanding of our citizens with abuse issues. It has been very valuable in our efforts to get at eye level and develop people-centered services."

Susanne Kvolsgaard, Social Centre Manager, Odense Municipality

Introduction

A new approach in treatment of substance abuse

Odense Municipality wanted to challenge the way their treatment centers currently approach substance abuse. We conducted an exploratory analysis in order to get a deeper understanding of the needs of those undergoing treatment; to create strategies that prevent substance abuse and reduce the possibility of a relapse. To do this, we needed a grasp on the citizen's needs, feelings and experiences.



On a psychological level, we found that several respondents felt their abuse was symptomatic of an underlying problem that often went unaddressed by the municipality. We also found the implications of gender and gender norms to be a factor in the efficacy of the treatment. 

Method

Understanding the current treatment

We visited the homes of citizens who utilise treatment centers, and conducted observations in three treatment centers in the municipality. We recorded user journeys and mapped touch points with the municipality in order to understand experiences in the context of the environments and the system.

A close collaboration with treatment center leaders, doctors and various stakeholders gave us an understanding of pains, past experiences and instances of success from the perspective of the system.

Result

Creating a new addiction prevention strategy

We created a series of recommendations for Odense Municipality and created a new addiction prevention strategy.

We found that substance abuse could be rooted in psychological disorders, family instability or career issues, yet fragmented municipality departments don’t recognise such overlaps. A rehabilitation center seldom has any contact with the unemployment center, counselling center or medical wing. By treating abuse as a problem in isolation, many patients slip through the cracks.

When it comes to gender and identity, men are more likely to develop an addiction and tend to naturally avoid activities that can be associated with femininity, including the expression of doubt and vulnerability that are naturally inherent in the current public treatment. The male citizens with abuse issues expressed a greater need for surface level, straightforward tools and strategies in contrast to the women who like to spend time considering underlying issues. We recommended the use of such tools in order to address this need.

We found that the best window of opportunity for the Municipality to concentrate its efforts on tackling relapses is during the end of the treatment. This is a particularly vulnerable time when many citizens feel crippled by a lack of support.

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