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by Jack Thomson
20 January 2021
Funding announced to tackle Scotland's drug deaths crisis

Parliament TV

Funding announced to tackle Scotland's drug deaths crisis

The First Minister has announced funding to tackle Scotland's drug deaths crisis, saying she wants to bring an end to "what is currently a national disgrace".

The latest figures, which were published in December, showed 1,264 deaths were recorded in 2019 - a record high for the sixth year in a row.

Nicola Sturgeon said that all those who have died a drug-related death, whether in 2019 or previous years, were in some way failed by the Scottish Government.

"Every single one, 1,264 in total, was a human being with dreams and aspirations, talent and potential," Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament.

"They were all someone's mother, father, daughter, son, brother or sister. Each of them left a hole in the lives of those who loved them. They mattered. While we can't help them now, we must do much more to make sure others don't suffer the same fate.

"The fact is all of these people and those who died in years gone by were in some way failed by us. The responsibility for that rests first and foremost with government.

"I believe that if we have the will, we can and we will find the ways to stop this happening. But doing so requires a national mission to end what is currently a national disgrace."

She announced "significant additional resources", including the provision of an extra £5m until the end of March, before committing to £50m of funding each year from the start of the new financial year until the end of the next parliament in 2026.

Sturgeon said: "This funding - a total of £250m over the next parliament - will support further investment in a range of community based interventions, including primary prevention and an expansion of residential rehabilitation."

She added the government will seek to "overcome the divide that sometimes exists in public debate, between harm reduction and recovery" - both of which she described as "vital".

The Scottish Government will aim to address a number of key areas urgently, including fast and appropriate access to treatment, residential rehabilitation, an approach that supports people living with drug addiction to address all of the underlying challenges they face, and the role of frontline third-sector organisations.

On the topic of safe consumption rooms, Sturgeon said: "There is strong evidence from other countries that these facilities help prevent fatal overdoses and encourage people who use drugs to access longer term help.

"That is why we are so keen to see that model formally used here. I can confirm that we are continuing to explore how we overcome the legal barriers that currently restrict us in this respect and while I cannot report on our conclusions of that today, it is an issue that I know parliament will return to.

"However, as we do so we will maximise what can be done now within the current law to reduce harm and stop people dying."

Additional funding will also be made available to make heroin assisted treatment services more widely accessible across the country.

Currently only around half of people most at risk of drug-related death are accessing some form of treatment, which the First Minister said "needs to change and fast".

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