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Scotland appoints minister to tackle record drug deaths

Nicola Sturgeon has

appointed a minister for drug policy to lead work on tackling Scotland ’ s record rates of drug-related deaths . Angela Constance , a former social worker , takes over responsibility from public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick , who is no longer in post following publication of the country ’ s long-delayed drug death figures for 2019 . These recorded 1,264 fatalities , up 6 per cent on 2018 ’ s previous record figure and the highest since records began – the country ’ s death rate is three and a half times higher than that for the UK as a whole , and the highest in the EU . ‘ I intend to get straight down to business , meeting with people who are at risk of dying from drugs , learning from the families of those we have lost and working with those in our communities and public health teams who are providing such valuable support ,’ said Constance . ‘ Government can and will do more .’
Barry Sheridan and Ian McPhee wrote in a recent issue of DDN that the longaccepted narrative about Scotland ’ s high death rate being the result of an ageing cohort of drug users was no longer acceptable ( November 2020 , page 7 ). ‘ In an advanced nation such as Scotland we should not consider being over 35 part of an ageing cohort ,’ they said , adding that blaming the death rate on a legacy of Westminster pre-devolution economic policies was ‘ shameful ’.
' I intend to get straight down to business ... Government can and will do more .'
ANGELA CONSTANCE
www . gov . scot
Local News
Targeted support Projects for South Asian women and people who identify as Roma , Gypsies and Travellers are among the recipients of Alcohol Change UK ’ s 2021 New Horizons grants programme . ‘ Members of marginalised groups can find themselves stigmatised because of their drinking and struggling to access the right type of support ,’ said director of research and policy Lucy Holmes .
Auaumon / Dreamstime . com

Face time is crucial

FACE-TO-FACE CONTACT with older adults receiving alcohol treatment is crucial , according to a survey commissioned by We Are With You . Moving services to online or phone-based models has presented ‘ huge barriers and challenges ’ for older adults , researchers found .
The study – by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Bedfordshire – looked at the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns on older service users , their rates of alcohol consumption and how services had adapted to support them , as well as the long-term implications for service provision .
‘ Most of the service users expressed a clear preference and need for face-to-face support ,’ said Dr Paulina Trevena of Glasgow Caledonian University . ‘ It helps combat loneliness , a frequent reason behind drinking in older age , and facilitates a better understanding of alcohol interventions , particularly for those with speech or hearing impairments .’
We Are With You recently launched a free , confidential helpline for people over 50 who may be worried about their drinking ( DDN , December / January pages 5 and 8 ) as well as re-launching its Drink Wise , Age Well website at www . drinkwiseagewell . org . uk
Addressing the needs of older adults receiving alcohol treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic at www . wearewithyou . org . uk

BBV boost

MORE THAN 1,000 PEOPLE who had previously been sleeping rough were tested for blood-borne viruses between May and August last year , according to the London Joint Working Group on Substance Use and Hepatitis C ( LJWG ). Of those who were tested for hepatitis C , more than one in ten were found to have antibodies for the virus , with 7 per cent identified as having an active infection .
The report details the efficient joint working between healthcare teams , peer workers and hotel staff during the ‘ Everyone In ’ initiative , which saw people who had been sleeping rough housed in temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic ( DDN , May 2020 , page 5 ).
‘ We could never have imagined when we launched our Routemap to eliminating hepatitis C how the world would have changed by 2021 ,’ said LJWG coordinator Dee Cunniffe . ‘ And yet thanks to the incredible hard work and innovation of everyone working on the BBV testing initiative in London , we have continued to find and treat people for hepatitis C , contributing significantly towards national elimination efforts .’
Report at http :// ljwg . org . uk /
Training for tomorrow Students in Belfast and Glasgow have been awarded £ 2,000 each as part of Which Rehab ’ s £ 40,000 national healthcare scholarship scheme . ‘ We want to encourage more students to train in addiction-related services because there are a spiralling number of people that need support ,’ said MD James McInally .
Key players Substance services could play a key role in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine , said CEO of Wales-based Kaleidoscope Martin Blakebrough . ‘ We simply cannot have a vaccination rollout that ignores those more vulnerable as a result of negative mental health or substance misuse . It is our hope that Public Health Wales and the Welsh Government will support our medical teams through vaccine training .'
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FEBRUARY 2021 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 5