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Dundee ‘moving in right direction’ in fight to tackle drug deaths, according to council leader

Dundee's drug deaths fell in 2020. Pictured is a worker holding naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Dundee's drug deaths fell in 2020. Pictured is a worker holding naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Dundee is beginning to win the fight against drug addiction and its horrific toll on the city, according to the leader of the council.

John Alexander says there are signs that things are moving in the right direction after the city’s drugs death toll fell to 38.30 drug deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.

John Alexander
John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council.

This was down from 48.22 in 2019, then the highest rate of death per population size in Scotland.

It came after deaths rose for seven consecutive years in both Dundee and overall in Scotland.

Mr Alexander is speaking ahead of two meetings to be held later this month to listen to those involved in the battle — users, their families and  front line staff.

It will look at feedback from service users and staff members who carried out a self-assessment on whether things are improving.

The responses have not yet been made public.

Real progress

Mr Alexander said: “Since the [Dundee] Drugs Commission delivered its recommendations two years ago, partners across the city have been working together to ensure real progress is made to improve the situation.

“The latest drug death statistics, while still outlining a horrific toll of suffering, do give us some early indications that we are moving in the right direction.”

He added: “Tremendous efforts across the drug services and third sector organisations should be recognised and I’m grateful to every single’s persons contribution to tackling this difficult issue, particularly during the pandemic.”

However, he added there was still a lot of work to do.

There’s still much to do

He said: “Areas of services still face pressures and there is much more to do, however I am heartened by the honest responses of both staff and the people who use services to this self-assessment.

crisis care Dundee
From left: David Martin, Trudy McLeay, David Lynch, Dr Robert Peat, Chairman of the Dundee Drugs Commission, John Alexander, Simon Little, Grant Archibald and Chief Superintendent Andrew Todd in 2019.

“When we are dealing with such a significant threat to human life as drugs, when we see the toll that it takes on families and communities, we cannot shirk from the honest responses of those who experience exactly what is going on.

“None of us involved in this effort can hide from the reality of the situation. It is only by facing up to the stark truth that we can better shape services to improve lives and stop the suffering.”

Self assessment

A spokesman for the council said that with the Dundee Drugs Commission now reconvened to measure progress on its recommendations, the Dundee Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) has carried out a self-assessment exercise to hear the views of those at the sharp end of work to help improve local services.

The findings will be considered by both the city council’s policy & resources committee and Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership Integration joint board (IJB) at meetings on August 23 and 25.”

The meetings will also consider a report that outlines how the self-assessment has identified a number of actions where the ADP recognises “an urgent need to accelerate work to strengthen partnership working to overcome any remaining barriers to progress and full implementation”.

£1 million funding

Funding from Dundee City Council of £1 million is outlined alongside investment from the Scottish Government to show how actions in the Dundee Partnership’s Action Plan for Change are being supported.

Publication of the self-assessment comes soon after it was confirmed that the city had received funding of £450,000 from the national Drug Deaths Taskforce to develop an integrated substance use and mental health response.

This will be delivered within communities, and will include crisis interventions at evenings and weekends.

Unprecedented situation

Councillor Ken Lynn, chair of the health and social care partnership IJB said: “The situation in Dundee is unprecedented and demands the strongest response possible.

“Our innovative work to provide a joint substance use and mental health approach will be Scotland-leading and I hope will integrate services in a vastly improved way for the people who really need them.

Councillor Ken Lynn.

“Everyone involved in this effort from across the wider Dundee Partnership is absolutely determined to turn this terrible situation around.

“We are under no illusions about the scale of the task and the commitment it will take to heal decades of tragedy.

“We are committed to do this properly. It is members of our communities and their families and friends who are suffering and they deserve a better future.

Meaningful and lasting change

“The self-assessment exercise shows how seriously we are taking this task and how we need to hear from those on the front line because their views are crucial in helping us to deliver meaningful and lasting change. ”

Simon Little Chair of Drugs and Alcohol Partnership
Simon Little, chair of Dundee ADP

Simon Little, independent chair of the ADP, said: “Over the past two years I have seen significant improvements in many aspects of the city’s response to substance use issues.

“For progress to be sustained, the ADP and its individual partners must be honest and open about the challenges that remain, and actively engage stakeholders in finding solutions to these.

“This self-assessment shows a willingness to do that and it is clear about the immediate priorities.”

At the end of last month Mr Little welcomed a drop in the number of drugs deaths in Dundee.

‘Still work to be done’: Dundee drugs partnership chair welcomes progress as city deaths fall

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