A summit to tackle Dundee’s heroin crisis will bring the city together to support communities at the “epicentre of a drug deaths epidemic”, organisers said.
The Drugs Commission met for the first time in response to the spiralling number of fatalities linked to substance misuse in the city, with Dundee currently holding the worst drug deaths record in Europe.
The commission hopes to bring together policy makers, academics, emergency services, health workers and local charities to work with those who have been been affected by drugs and find new ways to tackle the problem.
Councillor Ken Lynn, who is chairman of Dundee’s Health and Social Care Partnership, said the plan is to develop “real solutions” for the city, rather than set up “just a talking shop”.
He said: “This is such a huge issue in Dundee – to be in the position of having the worst drugs death in Europe is just not somewhere we want to be, particularly when you contrast that with all the positive things happening in the city.
“I think there’s every chance of getting real actionable changes out of this, particularly with the noises coming out from the Scottish Government about being prepared to take unpopular measures to tackle this problem.
“Dundee is the eye of the storm — this is the epicentre of the drug deaths epidemic so there is no more appropriate place to have that approach than here.”
The Drugs Commission hopes to produce a full report in around 9-12 months to outline their findings and Mr Lynn admitted the city may have to do something “quite radically different” to get the issue under control.
Dr Drew Walker, director of public health at NHS Tayside and chairman of Dundee Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, said he too has concerns about the number of drug deaths and level of drug misuse in the city.
He said: “We’ve launched the commission to bring in the lived experience of people with drug misuse here in Dundee, as well as the people working very hard to help these individuals and expertise from outside to learn about what’s happening in other areas.”
The Scottish Government will publish a review of its own drugs strategy this summer following calls for controversial measures such as supervised drugs consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment centres.
Public health minister Aileen Campbell, who spoke at the meeting, said it had been useful to listen to the experiences of people affected by drug addiction and their families.
“There’s been a lot of focus and attention on Dundee and the issues of substance misuse,” she said.
“We understand there are people who still require help in the here and now and that’s why this gathering, getting people together and operating on a city-wide basis in response to this particular challenge that Dundee has, is to be welcomed.
“We look forward to hearing the outcomes and output from today’s meeting and the subsequent meetings that they’ll undoubtedly have throughout the year.”