02 June, 2022

Willie (high risk use, undiagnosed cardio-respiratory condition, little contact with support)

The DRNS evaluation team suggest four broad challenges in helping people use digital technology to reduce drug-related harm. These are access, skills, motivation, and trust.

Willie's story illustrates the four challenges identified above.

Willie (50) is an electrician to trade, though works as a skilled labourer across various construction sites locally. He is opioid dependent (using heroin and illicit methadone), though is not in structured medication-assisted treatment, through personal choice. Much of Willie’s early life was spent in institutions, including care, secure units and eventually prison. This experience has led him to distrust statutory services, such as those offering healthcare and specialist drug treatment. Willie’s only interactions with services are through a third-sector run needle exchange service (NES). The NES recently piloted pulse oximetry with clients to facilitate risk awareness and screening for cardio-respiratory illness. Willie’s blood oxygen (SpO2) levels were borderline, and he was given harm reduction advice and instructed to visit a GP for further assessment, though he has yet to do so. Willie was also one of several service clients who opted to take a pulse oximeter home and felt this enabled him to manage his own risks. Willie has good computer literacy but has concerns about surveillance and the data economy and so refuses to own a smart phone.