2 December 2019
In October our Chief Executive, Mark, wrote to party leaders. He highlighted the opportunities they have to make a difference in this year's general election. Here's what he said:
Dear Party Leader,
More people died as a result of drugs last year than ever before. This is a national public health crisis that isn’t just on our doorsteps: it’s already in our homes and across our communities.
As the CEO of Change Grow Live, the UK’s largest third sector provider of drug and alcohol treatment services, I find this completely unacceptable. Every life affected by or lost to drug and alcohol misuse is a tragedy. I trust you will agree that the decade-long increase in the rate of drug-related deaths is most concerning and that this needs to be addressed with the right policies, approach and support.
This election, we are calling for all parties to commit to prioritising this issue by:
- Enacting policies to immediately reduce the number of drug-related deaths in the UK; and
- Driving an evidence-based approach to drug regulation and treatment funding.
We cannot just be in the business of trying to stop people from dying as a result of substance misuse: as a society, we have to help these people to genuinely change their lives for the better.
We have come a long way since the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, yet the UK’s drug laws remain incredibly outdated. We need policies that are fit for the future and are driven by evidence, not stigma. We need to have a sensible conversation about how thoughtful and tested regulation can address the prevalence of drug and alcohol misuse and drug-related deaths.
The need for an evidence-led approach to policy
To that end, we urge the next Government to establish an expert, independent commission that will consider all options to reframe and reinvigorate the UK’s drug laws, including decriminalisation.
Crucially, the next Government should make a firm commitment to developing evidence-led drug laws, so that the recommendations of this independent commission will be heeded and not ignored. Proper engagement with experts and civil society organisations in the drug treatment sector will be essential if we are to get through this crisis.
Targeted investment must address short-term and long-term needs
Change Grow Live is proud that we have been able to continue providing high-quality, people-first services across the country despite operating in a challenging funding environment. However, greater investment into support services is essential over the next five years to address the increase in drug-related deaths nationally.
This investment must be evidence-based and targeted, addressing both short-term (e.g. the use of naloxone by police forces and other support services) and long-term (i.e. full recovery) needs.
Even modest investment in these areas would make a real difference, significantly reducing the number of lives lost to drugs nationally and reducing the increasing pressure faced by the NHS and emergency services in the long-term.
To that end, Change Grow Live is also calling for budgets relating to drug and alcohol treatment services, both locally and nationally, to be ring-fenced until at least 2025.
Will you join us in our mission?
My sincere hope this election is that you will publicly recognise the pressing need to address the prevalence of drug and alcohol misuse and the continued increase in lives lost to drugs. We, and those who use our service, need to know where you stand on our recommendations and these issues more broadly.
As a leading national provider of treatment services, we are here to work in partnership with you to save lives. Nothing else is more important.