In 2021 around 25 people per week lost their life to a drug death. Each and every one was a tragedy and each and every one should have been preventable.
While the official statistics for 2022 aren't published until summer 2023, provisional, suspected drug death data tells us that the number of people dying is still unacceptably high.
In 2019 we established the Drug Deaths Taskforce to provide independent expert advice and guidance on how we tackle this challenge. Over the following three years this group brought together a diverse range of experts – including those with lived experience – to explore the key drivers behind Scotland's drug death crisis and provide recommendations on how we tackle this challenge.
The Taskforce final report Changing Lives marked the culmination of three years of important work which has fed into and influenced the design and delivery of the National Mission on Drug Deaths, for example, setting the foundations of our Medication Assisted Treatment Standards which are now being implemented across the country.
Changing Lives set out 20 recommendations and 139 action points and these reflect the complex needs of people at risk of drug death and the scale of the challenge we face. In our response set out in this document, we acknowledge the need for a whole government, whole-Scotland approach. A truly National Mission. Ministers and officials across government have worked closely to respond to these recommendations and the first section of this report sets out this cross-government approach.
This cross-government action plan highlights the wide range of areas which have mobilised to support the National Mission and respond to the challenges set by the Taskforce. From employment programmes to justice, transport to education and across health and social care the plan includes a broad range of initiatives which will not only support the complex needs of people who use drugs but also help support prevention and early intervention.
We set out over 80actions including existing and new initiatives and details ways that policy and delivery will be refocused to better support the needs of people who use drugs.
This plan includes significant spending commitment totalling over £68 million over the remainder of the parliament. This is complemented by our legislative programme which will bring forward important new duties on homelessness and enable improvements to our bail and release system. Our approach is underpinned by our wider commitment to tackling inequalities through the focussing of important initiatives such as Getting it Right for Everyone (GIRFE) and No One Left Behind.
For this plan, and the National Mission, to be successful we need to address one of the most important and challenging barriers that people who use drugs face: stigma. The final section of this publication presents our Stigma Action Plan which sets out how we, as a government, will lead by example, alongside actions we can all take through a national programme and the development of an accreditation scheme.
The Taskforce provided invaluable input and advice, informing our work as the National Mission developed. I thank the Taskforce members, past and present, for their important contribution. The final report, Changing Lives, has provided us with clear, evidenced recommendations and our response, set out here, outlines a new, even more ambitious, phase of our mission to save and improve lives.
Minister for Drugs Policy
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