The Dame Carol Black review is a major opportunity to revitalise how we support people who use drugs

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Part two of the review provides ambitious recommendations for a treatment system in need of a boost, says Jon Murray, executive director of services England at With You.

The long-awaited part two of Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs has finally been published and it is a candid, bold and thorough analysis of where the drug treatment system currently finds itself. It is clearly designed to have an impact and presents a unique opportunity to reform and improve a drug treatment system that is very much in need of a boost.

The scope and ambition of the review is to be applauded. It is wide-ranging and addresses many of the issues we hoped it would. It makes a strong ‘invest to save’ case for drug treatment, calling for improved Government leadership and accountability, reforms to commissioning and more integrated services. There is a welcome focus on trauma-informed service delivery, stronger partnership working and investment in the skills of our workforce. This review holds the potential for long-term, meaningful change.

We are pleased to see the review highlight the link between drug dependency and mental health. These services must work better together and the review provides a timely, welcome challenge to the sector to develop our approach in this area. Mental health and drug dependency are so often inextricably linked and our sector’s understanding of these issues through the lens of ‘dual diagnosis’ has to change. We are using our experience and insight of delivering mental health services to improve our understanding of these linkages, and exploring this issue will be a priority for us going forward.

The review is also right about the need to improve the services provided to non-opiate users. As a sector, we need to do more. We need to diversify the services we offer, which means more than just offering a mix of digital and in-person treatment. We’ve created new online advice and guidance on how to use drugs more safely, developed the UK’s first ‘find a needle exchange’ service, have new online groups, and new overdose prevention illustrated guides such as on how to use naloxone, ensuring people can access harm reduction information without having to come into a service. We must continue to explore new innovative ways to reach more people.

Diversifying our services also means designing services that are inclusive and tailored to the needs of specific groups. We are currently doing this by providing veterans with veteran-specific services, offering women-only drop-in times and female key-workers, web-chat services for LGBTQ+ and a helpline specifically for older drinkers. Though these cohort specific services are improving access and engagement in treatment, they also show how much more we can do. Our services need to evolve to become more flexible and meet people where they are at, offering support beyond the confines of fixed buildings.

Read the full blog post here.


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