Drugs deaths taskforce chair suggests more joined up approach needed

David Strang was appointed as chair of the taskforce last month, replacing Professor Catriona Matheson.

Drugs deaths taskforce chair suggests more joined up approach needed iStock

The factors contributing to drugs deaths in Scotland cannot be treated as a single issue, according to the newly-appointed chair of a task force established to tackle the issue.

David Strang, chair of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, indicated that a more ‘joined up’ approach is needed.

Giving evidence to MSPs at Holyrood, Strang, appointed to the role last month, suggested that a person-centred approach should be adopted.

A former senior police officer and chief inspector of prisons, Strang replaced Professor Catriona Matheson as chair of the taskforce.

Speaking on Wednesday, Strang pointed to homelessness and employment opportunities as aspects that should be considered in seeking to address the issue.

“I think stigma is important and is a barrier to tackling the issue,” he told MSPs on Wednesday.

“I think the lesson for this is that we cannot treat all these problems as a single issue.

“So, a council will have a housing policy and a health board will have a mental health policy.

“And somewhere you’ll find a substance use policy, and you’ll have a trauma-informed policy.

“But these won’t work, these won’t deliver. So that’s why we need to be looking at the whole person and saying – ‘Well, have they got the housing issue? Can they get into employment? Where are there support mechanisms?”

He added: “Your question about what more can be done, well, is not over 1300 deaths a year enough motivation to free up some budget?”

Strang explained that although funding is allocated to local authorities for different areas, the challenge is to ensure decisions focus on the person.

He said: “How we organise local government is that we give money for housing, we give money for health, we give money for education.

“But the challenge for people leading and making decisions on those issues is about this person.

“What do they need? And we need to make sure that is joined up.”

Reflecting on his experience working in the prison service, Strang explained the need to get better at joining up support for individuals.

He said of people leaving prison: “Often, they will have needs for medication, for accommodation, for benefits, and we require them to be in three different places on the day of liberation.

“So we need to get much better at joining up support for individuals that cuts across these traditional funding mechanisms.”

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