It’s been a busy year for Scottish Drugs Forum. The organisation has been involved in a number of new initiatives and events, as well as continuing to run our programmes of training and education, for trainees, workers and organisations working across the field.
Communication is an important part of the Forum’s remit and we’ve expanded that with the advent of our new podcast show ‘Drugs Uncut’ as well as continuing to inform through social media, enewsletters and other various channels.
There have been many publications produced this year also, including a number of toolkits and resources for both staff and people who use drugs.
The holiday season, and the run up to it, is a very busy time but it is also a time for reflection – an opportunity to look back and to see what we may have missed over the last twelve months or so.
SDF have therefore put together a festive content calendar to bring you resources, both new and unreleased, and some more established from earlier in 2019 that you may have missed.
The calendar offers a glimpse into what has been a difficult year for many – where drug-related deaths have increased for the fifth consecutive year running – and what actions have been taken as a result.
We must not forget during this festive period those who continue to need support. However, the festive period is also a time for optimism and although our calendar does not have a new chocolate every day, it does contain many useful and insightful resources which reflect the many and varied ways in which both SDF and our partners work.
So let’s open the first door……
The 1st of December was World Aids Day and to recognise the occasion, SDF and and Waverley Care co-produced a briefing which detailed information around the frontline responses to the current outbreak of HIV among people who inject drugs in Glasgow.
As part of the briefing, we developed a video for service providers, demonstrating how to talk to someone about rapid HIV testing, carry out a test and deliver results. We know that staff delivering services to people who inject drugs don’t always have the knowledge or confidence to deliver HIV testing, and are particularly unsure how to deliver a positive result. The video demonstrates delivering both a positive and negative result, and can be viewed here.
2nd of December
SDF has responsibility for organising and hosting the Scottish Needle Exchange Workers Forum (SNEWF), and earlier this year the theme for the day was ‘What’s the Crack?’ – looking at the current trends around powder and crack cocaine use in Scotland.
Dr Andrew McAuley, of Health Protection Scotland and Glasgow Caledonian University, delivered a presentation around the trend of injecting cocaine in Glasgow and it’s relationship with the current HIV outbreak, watch it here.
3rd of December
Today we are looking at lived experience and so are delighted to share Garth Mullins’ presentation from our Connections During Crisis conference. Garth is a drug user activist and award-winning radio documentarian based in Vancouver, Canada where he is host and Executive Producer of the Crackdown Podcast where people who drugs cover the drug war as war correspondents.
Garth used to use injectable heroin but is now prescribed methadone. Garth was the keynote speaker at the conference and his address raised many questions given the current causes for concern in Scotland.
4th of December
Alongside conference presentations, podcasting is another form of communicating a message and it is something that SDF added to its communication strategy earlier this year with the launch of Drugs Uncut. We were delighted that Garth Mullins could join us on the first epsidoe as our guest.
Strategy Co-ordinator for Drug Death Prevention, Kirsten Horsburgh, Andy Coffey, SDF’s Communication Officer and Austin Smith, Policy and Practice Officer heard insights from Garth on what Scotland could learn from Canada, and in turn what they could learn from us.
For today’s look behind the calendar’s door we are hearing about Edinburgh in a presentation from Susan Carmichael, who’s a Blood-Borne Virus Prevention Nurse with the Harm Reduction Team for NHS Lothian.
Susan spoke at the Scottish Needle Exchange Workers Forum (SNEWF) ‘What’s the Crack? event in July and gave an update on the increase in crack cocaine smoking and injecting being seen by the service in Edinburgh City Centre, and East and West Lothian.
Our next feature focuses on an SDF colleague who’s role it is to know all about cleanliness. Sophie Given is the National Training and Development Officer for Harm Reduction and Emergency Responses.
Earlier this year, Media volunteer, John Thomson, caught up with Sophie to find out more about her role and to see what progress is being made to reduce potential outbreaks of bacterial infections caused by drug use by ‘going back to the basics’.
So far we’ve been opening doors (in a vain search for chocolate) and have found a number of useful resources which have been developed by SDF and our colleagues across the field over the past year. It’s about offering some answers and solutions to the current drug-related issues in Scotland. Today though we also share some hope and positivity.
Our award-winning Addiction Worker Training Project (AWTP) trains, supports and pays people with a history of drug or alcohol problems to gain a qualification and work in the social care field.
So, here’s a video which opens doors not just on the AWTP but also gives an exclusive behind the scenes look at SDF itself!
SDF provides specialist training on a huge variety of substance use-related issues and details of these courses are available on our training website, which was launched earlier in 2019.
Also earlier this year, we announced the launch of a new e-learning resource dedicated to raising basic knowledge and awareness of illicit drugs that are commonly used in Scotland.
The course is free, only takes an hour and gives current workers a chance to keep their skills up to date and also provides a basic understanding for everyone else.
Over the past nine days we have been showing a number of the ways SDF communicates our work, and another method is that of the written word.
In August, the ‘Staying Alive in Scotland’ toolkit – a free resource resource that contains a range of strategies to reduce drug-related deaths in Scotland – was updated and relaunched.
Scottish Government approved and developed in consultation with Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs), it links directly to the Government’s alcohol and drugs strategy – ‘Rights, Respect and Recovery’ – and the subsequent action plan.
Our conferences offer a platform for international speakers – such as Garth who you heard from earlier in the calendar – who bring a range of experience and expertise and are happy to share those with the people who attend.
It also important, however, to hear what’s happening in Scotland.
David Liddell is SDF’s CEO and he spoke to the Conference in August. His theme?
Scotland’s Overdose Crisis.
Another speaker from ‘Connections During Crisis’ was Fiona Gilbertson from Recovering Justice. The organisation is composed of people in recovery from problematic substance use and their mission is to end the stigma and criminalisation of people who use drugs, through policy change and advocating for solutions based on human rights and health.
Fiona has over twenty-five years of advocacy experience in HIV and transactional sex, mostly in policy development and lobbying. She spoke of the stigma and discrimination by many people in both those areas and much of what she had to say came from her own lived experience.
So far, this year’s calendar has looked at both the work of SDF’s staff and the Addiction Worker Trainees, but there is another significant group of people who contribute to the work of the Scottish Drugs Forum.
Peer Research volunteers help people who use services to feedback on the services they use. SDF trains volunteers in a wide variety of topics to equip them with the professional skills necessary to undertake the robust and structured research which is commissioned by these external agencies, including individual interviews and focus groups.
For Volunteers Week 2019, the contribution of our volunteers was celebrated to recognise and celebrate their fantastic work.
Because of their own individual backgrounds of substance use problems, Peer Research volunteers are in a unique position to talk to people as ‘peers’ and to share experiences as well, as using the opportunity to develop their own professional skills.
Today, we hear from Grant – also from Fife. He talked of his own background and what he has gained from being a volunteer.
In the second episode of the Drugs Uncut podcast, we looked at the Scottish Government’s new Drug Deaths Taskforce and what recommendations were made to them in their first meeting with regards to the Scottish National Naloxone Programme.
The episode also contains a chat with the Chair of the Taskforce, Professor Catriona Matheson, to discover how the first two meetings had gone and what the hopes and aspirations are for the Taskforce in the future.
The Scottish Needle Exchange Workers’ Forum (SNEWF) looks at many issues raised by those working in needle exchanges and of the people who use them. Earlier this year the SNEWF held an event called ‘What’s the Crack’ and one of the people to address the attendees was Laura Wilson, an Advanced Pharmacist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Her talk was entitled ‘Cocaine Dependence – Treatment Options’ and she began by explaining that treatment providers are limited but it is important to look at what has been tried – and with what success.
A common theme of much of this year’s calendar has involved looking at the ways in which SDF and other agencies seek to reduce the toll of drug-related deaths in Scotland.
In 2018, 1,187 people lost their lives to a preventable drug overdose. Each of these tragic deaths impacts on individuals, families, communities and the nation. This cannot be accepted or allowed to become a ‘new normal’.
This year a new website was launched on 31st August in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day – a day designed to remember those affected by a fatal drug-related death. This was a call to refocus energy and conversation on preventing such deaths in Scotland – a major part of the Forum’s current work.
Another feature of this year’s work and, indeed, every year, is to look at the best practice from all over the world.
For International Awareness Day in 2018, SDF were delighted to invite Marilou Gagnon, RN, PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Victoria in Canada to be keynote speaker at the ‘Working Together to Prevent Drug-Related Deaths Conference’ – the points raised then are as relevant today.
SDF’s Strategy Co-ordinator for Drug-Death Prevention, Kirsten Horsburgh, caught up with Marilou the day before the event to find out more about the Canadian experience of substance use and what was being done to reduce drug-related deaths in the country – what she said related much to Scotland’ growing experience of such deaths.
Marilou had more to tell us and the cameras kept rolling.
Marilou’s research also addresses gaps in knowledge that have the potential to inform public debate and policies, while also advancing the rights and the health of marginalised communities. Kirsten took this opportunity to find out more about the Canadian experience of nursing within the harm reduction field.
One of Scottish Drugs Forum’s functions is to help people working in substance use and related fields to stay up to date with developments and trends.
In this, the latest of the SDF’s content calendar, it seems a good time to look at one of publications that SDF updated during the year.
The ‘Control of Drugs’ briefing aims to contribute to debate around the legislative approach to drug use, possession and supply. It describes the current system and alternatives that have been suggested and describes practicable and more effective controls in terms of reducing the harms that can occur as a result of drug use.
Earlier this year, an important resource for people who work with people who are at risk of HIV in Scotland was updated in response to the current HIV outbreak in Glasgow among people who use drugs.
The ‘HIV – What Workers Need to Know’ booklet was produced by the Scottish Drugs Forum to assist frontline staff to better understand HIV and to support the people affected.
Conferences, and bringing people together to discuss the themes, are important and, although SDF is making greater use of video presentations, nothing can beat actually taking part in workshops, particularly with new people, or having a coffee with someone you haven’t seen for a while.
And we might just take your photo.
Our Flickr account hosts all our images from our events and the photo albums show many of the people who attended. See if you can spot yourself or someone you know.
Our final video in this year’s content calendar comes from the ‘What’s the Crack’ SNEWF event, in the form of a very educational, insightful and useful video presentation from Laura Freeman of NHS Scotland.
Laura gives an introduction to working with people who use cocaine and breaks down the pharmacological and psychological effects of the substance, which seeks to explain the behaviour and motivations of people who use it.
This year’s edition of the ‘festive content calendar’ has already featured the Addiction Workers’ Trainee Project and how it can help change lives – in many ways.
At the end of the nine-month course, the hard work of the trainees is celebrated with friends and family at a graduation ceremony, usually held at the Scottish Parliament.
Why not revisit the special day by reviewing the photos?
What you’ve seen behind the various doors of the calendar has given a good representation of what SDF does but it also produces an annual review which goes into greater detail.
Here is the annual report for 2018/19 which includes various examples of the work that the team have carried out during the year about to pass.
You can explore our work in drug death prevention; peer involvement and volunteering; improving service quality; training; harm reduction, sexual health and blood borne viruses; the new drug strategy and much more.
Since it’s Christmas Day you should give yourself a break!
There is no resource today, just a very merry festive season to one and all from the whole of Scottish Drugs Forum.
We very much look forward to working with you all once again in the New Year
The cheeky bunch below