The unhealthy politicisation of drug policy between Westminster and Holyrood seems for today at least, to be delivering a very welcome injection of cash even if the underlying sentiment is ‘mine is bigger/better than yours’!
In both England and Scotland, Governments have recognised the need to create more equal access to residential treatment. As you will have read from previous Phoenix Futures blogs, action to ensure everyone can access residential treatment and inpatient detox when they need it, where they need it, for as long as they need it, has become urgent.
It's been urgent for years.
The cuts to drug treatment funding has meant in many areas of England and Scotland you currently don’t get residential treatment or inpatient detox as a health care option. That flies in the face of evidence and clinical guidance and it is a huge relief that has finally been accepted and action can begin.
The targeted and focused injections of cash for treatment announced today are to be hugely welcomed;
In England £80m has been announced to
- offer more treatment places (including in residential services), particularly to improve pathways from the criminal justice system
- provide more intensive treatment and recovery programmes in ‘accelerator’ areas of high need
- expand provision of inpatient detoxification
- expand needle and syringe programme and provide more naloxone to reduce blood-borne viruses and prevent overdose deaths
In Scotland, the First Minister announced a comprehensive approach to addressing drug related deaths. In a well informed and compassionate speech she set out a commitment to £5m additional funding for the rest of this financial year and a £50m commitment thereafter.
But of course, access to rehab and detox isn’t on its own going to reduce the level drug related deaths and neither government has room to be complacent. We have a strong worldwide evidence base that supports tried and tested ways to support people into different treatment options that will work for them.
The Scottish Governments Strategy Rights Respect and Recovery is a good strategy. It's focus on everyone’s fundamental right to treatment is a solid foundation. But it that has taken far too long to be implemented and the announcement today from the First Minister is to be welcomed as much for what it says as for the demonstration of a commitment to move forward with haste.
It was a delight to listen to a politician who was so committed to empowering people to access a range of treatment to address the complexities that come with addiction.
In England the Dame Carol Black review Phase I set out a clear case for change and improvement to help more people get the treatment they need and want. The publication of the next phase of the review is keenly awaited, to set out a strategic direction for improved access and delivery of treatment in England. And that will need to be supported by a long-term commitment to funding and clarity on sector leadership in the face of the closure of PHE.
And as I have said before we all have a responsibility to create an environment where no one feels ashamed to ask for help for drug or alcohol use. Shame doesn’t help, treatment does.
The announcements made today will help with the later. The rest is for us all to work on!
 £148 million to cut drugs crime - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 Drugs policy - update: statement by the First Minister - 20 January 2021 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)