Drug deaths taskforce meets for first time
The Scottish Government’s drugs deaths taskforce met for the first time to discuss how best to include “the voices of those with lived and living experience” while looking for solutions to Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.
As part of this effort the taskforce appointed three new members who have experience with drug use and recovery.
The 26 member expert panel met in Edinburgh and also discussed the use of harm reduction interventions, specifically naloxone and opioid substitution therapy.
Professor Catriona Matheson of Stirling University chairs the group that includes Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer as well as organisations such as Police Scotland, COSLA, the Dundee Drugs Commission and various medical experts.
The first meeting comes after a £20m spending package was announced by the First Minister in the Programme for Government, meant to help tackle Scotland’s record high drug death figures.
Statistics released in the summer showed that 1,187 people died in Scotland last year from drug related deaths, something the government is calling a “public health emergency”.
The government set up the taskforce to help deliver its national alcohol and drug strategy.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We had good, constructive discussions around this public health emergency today and the ways in which we might tackle it. We know there is no easy solution and driving down the shocking statistics on drug deaths we saw this year will be challenging and will take time. We all, however, recognise the need for urgent and immediate action.
“We will draw on the experience and expertise of the taskforce members and those with lived experience to shape how services in Scotland could save lives.
“Building on increases in funding in recent years, we’re investing a further £20 million over the next two years to help deliver the proposals which come forward.”
Professor Matheson said: “After some very informative presentations from a number of experts, the group discussed a number of key issues which will now be taken forward.
“I would like to thank all the members for their time and contributions today, and going forward, as we seek to address the considerable challenge of drug related deaths, I am reassured by the total commitment shown to make progress
“This is a highly complex matter that needs to be addressed from a number of angles and I am confident that we will be able to take action that can make a difference. I look forward to progressing this work over the coming months."