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Drug deaths taskforce membership announced ahead of first meeting

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Drug deaths taskforce membership announced ahead of first meeting

The Scottish Government taskforce on drug deaths has revealed its full membership of 23 individuals and organisations ahead of its first meeting this month.

The group will meet on 17 September to begin examining the major causes of drug deaths and investigating potential solutions.

Professor Catriona Matheson of Stirling University will chair the group that includes Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood, Karen McCluskey from Community Justice Scotland as well as representatives from 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: “What Scotland faces in terms of drug deaths is an emergency – addressing that will need new approaches even if at first they may be challenging.

“Our new taskforce has the desire and the experience required to tackle this problem and I look to them to help shape how services in Scotland could help 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 that come forward.

“We will also host a drug summit in Glasgow to further explore this issue, ensuring that the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are also heard. I’ve repeatedly invited the UK Government to attend this summit – I hope they will soon commit to doing so.

“There are no easy answers, but if we’re to save lives we need a recognition that change is both necessary and, with the right support, achievable.”

Matheson said: “We have undertaken a lot of work to prepare for the first taskforce meeting so that we can hit the ground running.

“Having said that, the scale of the challenge is considerable and I appeal to the wider community to continue to be supportive to enable us to address together the tragedy of drug deaths affecting communities across Scotland.

“I am extremely heartened we have pulled together a strong team who have given their full commitment to the aims of the Taskforce.”

The Scottish Drugs Forum said that the government should be focussing on increasing the number of people signing up to and staying in treatment.

David Liddell, CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “We welcome the minister’s statement on the details of the drug deaths taskforce. What we hope will emerge from their work is clear direction on how to impact on the tragic and escalating rates of preventable drug overdose deaths. 

“The key aims should be to follow the evidence of what works. We need to increase by at least 50 per cent the number of people in drug treatment. Also, there is a need to improve access to treatment - people are currently waiting months for access to opioid substitution therapy. 

“As recommended elsewhere, services need to eliminate unplanned discharges - too many people fall out of services, too often through in-flexible or punitive practice. There is a general need to improve quality – potentially up to 50 per cent of people receiving opioid substitution therapy are on sub-optimal doses.

“These issues are long standing and complex. Swift and large scale action is required.”

The full list of the drugs taskforce is as follows:

Professor Catriona Matheson (Chair)

Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland

Adam Coldwells, Aberdeenshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership

Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Adviser

Fiona Doig, Borders Alcohol & Drugs Partnership and Health Improvement

Colin Hutcheon, Families lived experience representative

Ahmed Khan, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Jean B. Logan, Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland

Carey Lunan, Royal College General Practioners in Scotland

Phil Mackie, Scottish Public Health Network

Duncan McCormick, Public Health Medicine

Karyn McCluskey, Community Justice Scotland

Lesley McDowall, Scottish Prisons Service

Anthony McGeehan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Susanne Millar, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership

Dr Tessa Parkes, Director of the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research at University of Stirling

Dr Robert Peat, Dundee Drugs Commission

Neil Richardson, Turning Point Scotland

Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland

Cameron Stewart, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS)

Richard Watson, Recovery Community Lived Experience Representative

David Williams, Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership

John Wood, Convention of Scottish Local Authoritie

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