We had to make drug-related deaths the focus of this year’s conference. The room was packed with people that were directly affected, as demonstrated by the question, ‘who in this room has lost someone?’
We heard about keyworkers struggling with huge caseloads, and the state of constant recommissioning – identified by the ACMD as a driving factor of DRDs. We were reminded that funding will drop further. But the take-home messages were clear: we need better integration between treatment services and the rest of the NHS, and we must do more to improve all-round physical and mental health.
Those who use substances and services must make their voices heard in the fray of local authority commissioning. ‘Challenge cuts, challenge discrimination,’ said our speakers. Central to this is making sure harm reduction is not sacrificed for short-term financial gain. OST, naloxone distribution and more injecting facilities were identified as vitally important – to public health as much as individuals.
One of the strongest messages was a simple one: ‘isolation kills’. Most of those dying are not in services. Many of those who get a brief window of opportunity for treatment (say, while they are in prison) are not receiving it because the system is not ready for them.
So let’s challenge locally. Find out who your commissioners are, and get involved in decision-making where and when you can. Let us know what’s happening in your area and help us to highlight hotspots of strong and weak practice. Help us to improve the one tool we can all use – information. And let’s carry on the networking that made this such a powerful occasion.
Claire Brown, editor