The Scottish Government has pledged £250m to tackling its record high rates of drug-related deaths, with £50m to be allocated annually for the next five years.
A ‘national mission’ was needed to address the situation, first minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament, and stated that £5m had already been allocated for the remainder of this financial year. The announcement follows Westminster’s allocation of £80m for treatment services south of the border, part of an overall £148m package to address drug-related crime.
The Scottish funding will be spread between drug and alcohol partnerships, third sector and grass roots bodies to ‘improve work in communities’ and ‘substantially increase’ the number of residential rehab beds. Money will also be used to widen naloxone distribution and help tackle stigma, with the aim of increasing the numbers of people in treatment.
New standards for medicine-assisted treatment will also be implemented to ‘ensure equitable services for all drug users’, the government said, adding that it would also be ‘reassessing how overdose prevention facilities might be established’ despite legal barriers from Westminster. It recently appointed a new minister for drug policy, Angela Constance, to lead work on tackling drug deaths.
‘Anyone who ends up losing their life as a result of drug addiction is not just failed at the time of their death – in most cases, they will have been failed repeatedly throughout their whole life,’ said Nicola Sturgeon. ‘I believe that if we have the will, we can and we will find the ways to stop this happening. Doing so requires a national mission to end what is currently a national disgrace. It is a reasonable criticism to say that this government should have done more earlier, and I accept that. But I am determined that we will provide this national mission with the leadership, focus, and resources that it needs.’
‘Today’s announcement is a clear statement that the Scottish Government is serious about reducing drug-related deaths,’ said We Are With You’s director in Scotland, Andrew Horne. ‘This level of investment will make a huge impact and help more people access the support and treatment they need. We welcome the commitments to widening the distribution of naloxone, establishing overdose prevention centres and increasing the number of residential rehabilitation beds. We also believe reviewing how medicine assisted treatments are prescribed will be vital in reducing the number of deaths.
‘The fact that this funding is stretched over the next five years shows that there is a long-term vision in place to reduce drug related deaths and we look forward to working alongside government and other health services to achieve this.’