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A fresh approach to tackling drug and alcohol abuse in Renfrewshire is now underway, with partners hoping to reverse the trends around this serious public health issue. Chair, Councillor, Jacqueline Cameron explains more about the new plans…

“The latest figures paint a stark picture, with 50 of Scotland’s 1,187 drug-related deaths in 2018 falling in Renfrewshire; while in 2017, 44 people in the area died of alcohol-related causes of a national total of 1,120. But behind every statistic lies a person, and the impact of each death reaches far into our communities, leaving broken families and long-standing issues.

To help start to tackle this trend, partners have now committed to change the way we respond to and deal with issues of addition. The Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership’s Alcohol and Drugs Commission – one of the first of its kind in Scotland – will explore new ways of tackling the issue through hearing first-hand from people who have lived experience of using alcohol and drugs, and their family members, with a particular focus on early intervention and prevention.

The ADC is casting its net wide to make sure a broad a spectrum of people are involved in both understanding the issue and responding to it. The ADC is made up of key figures from across health and social care, housing, justice, third sector and higher education – run in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, as a collective group. The ADC will consider policy across areas including the support for people most in need, prevention and early intervention, and recovery.

Building on Renfrewshire Council’s successful Tackling Poverty Commission, the Alcohol and Drugs Commission will look at all aspects of addiction and its impact, as opposed to concentrating solely on addiction services, and will identify recommendations to help improve the lives of those affected.

We know the devastating impact that alcohol and drug use has not only on the individuals affected, but also their friends and families and the wider community. We also know we’re only dealing with the tip of the iceberg when we support those already in contact with the services available. If we want to make a difference we have to do things differently and as a local authority we’re uniquely placed to bring people round the table to help make that difference and find solutions that will work.

To continue to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Renfrewshire, and to allow everyone to fulfil their potential, it’s essential for us to identify the people who are in most need of our help. To do this, we need to gain a true picture of how drug and alcohol use is impacting upon the lives of people of all ages and look closely at how we use early intervention and prevention to support people affected by alcohol and drug use.

By working with partners and agencies across a whole range of services including housing, education, and health and social care, we want to identify key priorities to make a significant difference to Renfrewshire and the people who live here.

People with lived experience of problematic substance use and recovery are being placed at the heart of our treatment and support responses. The voice of lived experience has much to inform the decision making around problematic substance use, and by capturing that voice, listening to the messages and providing relevant support we believe we can make a big difference to peoples’ lives.

In the coming months we’ll be working hard to fully understand the issues and expect to report back with a series of recommendations early next year.”

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