When delegates gathered in Birmingham for All Together Now , the first DDN conference since the pandemic , the energy was tangible . Additional photography throughout by nigelbrunsdon . com
Welcome to the DDN conference – I ’ m so pleased to be able to say that at last !’ DDN editor Claire Brown told the opening session of All Together Now . ‘ A friend said to us last night , “ Why do you have this event ? You ’ ve had a hurricane one year , COVID stopping it for a couple of years and now you ’ ve been literally derailed by the train strike .” I thought about that and realised that ’ s exactly why we do have it – life ’ s like that , and this is a gathering like no other event . You can feel the energy , and we just want to be here .’
A TIME FOR OPTIMISM This was a time for optimism and big ambitions , said director of addictions and inclusion at OHID , Rosanna O ’ Connor . The drugs strategy meant there was a window over the next three years to ‘ show what a revitalised treatment and recovery system can deliver ’, and people with lived experience were going to be ‘ massively important ’, she stated . ‘ Your insight into what treatment and support a world-class system should have on offer can help shape that future .’
The significant new government investment was there to do two critical things , she said – to make sure ‘ we can offer treatment to all people who want and need it ’, which meant roughly 55,000 more people by the end of 2024 , and to ‘ deepen the quality of that treatment offer ’. This meant reinvesting in harm reduction , smaller caseloads for frontline workers , more medical specialists and more investment in recovery communities .
The government was determined that the voices of people in treatment and recovery – and those not yet engaged – would help shape its work , she said . ‘ More than that , you are a full part of the system – supporting each other and making treatment more meaningful , real and more effective . Keep talking to us , keep challenging us .’
RELEVANT SYSTEMS ‘ People are messy , people are unique , people are individuals and they all have unique needs ,’ said executive director of Change Grow Live , Nic Adamson . ‘ I think we all want to see treatment systems that are attractive and relevant to everybody .’ However , women – who represented 51 per cent of the population – were still being let down by homogenised treatment models developed for , and by , men . ‘ As a woman you ’ re less likely to have your voice heard and your needs met ,’ she said . ‘ We ’ ve seen an almost 80 per cent increase in the number of women dying a drug-related death , but the numbers in treatment remain largely unchanged . Services for women have not improved significantly in design or sophistication over the last 20 years .’
However , this was something we now had a chance to do something about , she stressed .
SPECIALIST PROVISION The recently launched Women ’ s Treatment Group ( DDN , April , page
‘ People are messy , people are unique , people are individuals and they all have unique needs .’
5 ) would be advocating specifically for the needs of women , she said , and making tangible improvements across the system , including a gender-specific evidence base , specialist women ’ s provision , new contracting arrangements – and for women ’ s lived experience to be ‘ valued and sought after ’.
The group was committed
6 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JULY / AUGUST 2022 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM