DDN June2022 June 2022 - Page 12

not the case . Minimum unit pricing wouldn ’ t even touch a drink in a pub , it ’ s entirely focused on the most harmful forms of alcohol that you get in the off-trade . I support local pubs , I support responsible drinking , and I think the tax changes that Rishi Sunak has brought in are at least taking us in the right direction – so that the tax actually follows the strength of alcohol in the drink .’
FULLY FUNDED Last year he wrote a joint letter with the Forward Trust calling for the recommendations in the Dame Carol Black review to be fully funded . While the government went a long way towards doing that with its announcement of substantial new investment late last year , a number of people have warned that unless the sector can show real results in terms of reducing deaths and crime it may well be the case that the Treasury halts the funding after the first three years ( DDN , February , page 8 ; March , page 9 ). Does he think this is a real risk ?
‘ Honestly , I ’ d be amazed if the funding was removed after three years ,’ he says . ‘ I ’ ve already been to see some of the projects – like in Liverpool , with We Are With You – where the funding has come forward this year , and they ’ ve
already got statistics to show that crime is down . We ’ ve had ten years of cuts , the highest drug deaths on record , and a criminal justice system that ’ s overflowing with people who ’ ve committed crimes in relation to their own drug use .’
What ’ s needed is a health response , he states , and he ’ s supportive of community sentences and some of the diversionary schemes being implemented by police and crime commissioners , which were encouraged in the Black report and endorsed by the drug strategy . ‘ The criminal justice system is on its knees at the moment in terms of backlogs and prison places and all the rest of it , so this the evidence-based response that we need . “ Tough on drugs ” has failed as a strategy .’
EQUALITY ACT So , aside from funding , what could be done to improve access to alcohol treatment ? ‘ One thing I ’ m fighting for now is a change to the Equality Act , which covers other mental health conditions , because currently addiction is excluded ,’ he says . The act legally protects people from discrimination and ‘ if we could make that change – so that the presumption is that if someone is suffering with addiction it can be understood to be an illness and
‘ Addiction is incredibly isolating , and one of the best ways to deal with that is to provide a community to someone who ’ s suffering ... I ’ ve seen it work , I meet people and speak to people every week who owe their lives to recovery communities ...'
something that support should be provided for – it would go a long way to changing the culture and making sure the proper support is delivered .’
Stigma , shame , and fear clearly remain significant barriers to treatment , however . ‘ When we ’ re at a low point it ’ s hard to accept that what we ’ re suffering with is a chronic health condition ,’ he says , which is where education and nationwide anti-stigma campaigns could help people feel less alone and ‘ safe to seek help ’. Early intervention is also key , he believes , which means improving GP screening , combined with a ‘ no-wrong-door policy – wherever you turn up for help , you should receive the care you need , regardless of if you have history of substance use disorders ’.
Obviously the places with the highest rates of drug- and alcoholrelated deaths and harm , such as the North East , are also the most deprived , and he believes that improving treatment needs to be
a central part of any ‘ levelling up ’ agenda . ‘ I witness the alarming levels of unmet need and the devastating impact untreated addiction has on families and community ,’ he says . ‘ We cannot simply arrest our way out of the country ’ s addiction crisis , we cannot punish the already marginalised into recovery , and we cannot end the pointless cycle of harm without evidence-based policy .’
PERSON CENTRED When it comes to recovery , people have long argued over what it really means – how would he define it ? ‘ It ’ s different for everyone and I wouldn ’ t try to prescribe my own routes to anyone else , but I think you ’ ve got to have a balance of abstinence and harm reduction . I think it ’ s got to be understanding this is an illness , and trying to provide the right support to the person so that it ’ s person-centred .’
Having come from a position where he didn ’ t know what recovery ‘ even looked like ’, he says , he ’ s become passionate about the power of recovery communities . ‘ They ’ re proof that change is possible , they ’ re role models to us all . The more we celebrate and support recovery communities , the more people who are still suffering will ask for help . Since sharing about my own struggles , I ’ m dedicated to championing visible recovery .
‘ Addiction is incredibly isolating , and one of the best ways to deal with that is to provide a community to someone who ’ s suffering ,’ he states . ‘ I ’ ve seen it work , I meet people and speak to people every week who owe their lives to recovery communities in all different forms . We live in a society where there is more and more isolation , and people face incredible struggles . Finding ways in which we can support recovery communities is the one thing that must never be left out . Ensuring that they get the support and recognition in all of this is vitally important .’ DDN
Dan Carden will be speaking at the DDN conference in Birmingham on 23 June .
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