The Scottish Government has published A Nation With Ambition, its programme for 2017-18.
This includes a £20 million pound investment in alcohol and drug treatment and support services. Scottish Drugs Forum has demonstrated the fact and consequences of reductions in local spending and welcomes this announcement which will have a significant impact on the ability of Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) to respond to priorities being identified in the emerging policy landscape.
The new drugs strategy, an ‘overhaul’ of Scotland’s nine year old Road to Recovery, is announced as drug issues move from Government departments for Justice to Health and will be guided by a principle of “ensuring the best health outcomes for people who are, or have been, drug users”.
The document also states that during the next year, the Scottish Government will renew their mission to tackle deep-seated and intractable challenges such as homelessness and rough sleeping alongside drug use. These problems “blight lives and damage communities….we will intensify our own efforts to tackle them.”
The report particularly recognised the role of supporting children and young people, as it is recognised that drugs are often used as a coping mechanism for individuals who have suffered trauma and that problem drug use can often stem from experiencing these events. “Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs), like parental drug and alcohol abuse, parental incarceration, physical or sexual abuse or neglect, are linked to poorer physical and mental health in adulthood, risky health behaviours, violence and homelessness.”
Viewing problem drug use as an aspect of wider social issues and in the context of personal trauma and mental health moves policy significantly from the notion of personal journeys towards abstinence and is a perspective useful in understanding and meeting the needs of people who are currently unable to engage with or move through treatment.
The new policy will focus services on a ‘seek, keep and treat’ model. This approach is compatible with the recommendations of SDF’s recent report on meeting the needs of older drug users and in the work in addressing the needs of those affected by the ongoing HIV outbreak in Glasgow. (For further information on this see Dr John Budd’s (Chair of the Expert Group on Older Drug Users) presentation on Older Drug Users at the Drug Use Through A Health Lens event in July 2017)
On launching the Programme, the First Minister said “The programme… is fresh, bold and ambitious – and because of that, aspects of it undoubtedly will be controversial…That is inevitable – indeed it is necessary. No one has ever built a better country by always taking the easy option.”
Questioned in Parliament on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon referred to the new drugs strategy and how stigma for people with a drug problem needs to be addressed.
SDF welcomes these developments and proposals and will engage in consultation and dialogue on how strategy can better deliver for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens.