People with life experience must be at the core of a new “national mission” to combat drug deaths, Scotland’s new drug control minister has said.
On Friday, after the number of overdose deaths in Scotland increased to 1,264 in 2019, former Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick lost his job.
Last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon nominated Angela Constance for the newly formed position of Minister of Drug Policy, who now says that people with long-standing expertise and their families need to be at the forefront of a new mission to resolve this “public health emergency.”
In 2019, 1,264 drug-related deaths across Scotland were reported in the latest figures – a record high and the worst toll in the EU.
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“In a speech after her appointment to the new role was approved by the Scottish Parliament, in which she will report directly to the First Minister, Ms. Constance said, “The scale of drug deaths in Scotland is a national tragedy. I am determined to lead government-wide work in this new post that will have an immediate effect on helping those at risk of losing their lives.
“This public health emergency needs a national mission to address it, and one that puts people with lived experience – and their families – at the center,” he said.
I will work hand-in-hand with those who have real life and frontline experiences from day one to shape the services and remind them of the actions we need to take,”From day one, I will work hand-in-hand with those who have real life and frontline experiences to shape the services and inform the actions we need to take,”
My aim is to build as much consensus as possible. I have already started talking to people with life experiences, their families, and others on the front lines of solving this problem as a first step. I have also had initial meetings from around the Scottish Parliament with MSPs.
“I will continue to reach out to people in the coming weeks.”
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Ms. Constance said these talks would help “set the course” before the First Minister will participate early in the new year in the Drug Deaths Task Force, after which she has vowed to report back to Parliament.
She added: “I have a background in dealing directly with some of the problems around drug use, addiction and the toll it takes on lives and our communities through my career as a social worker before becoming an MSP, and as a minister fighting inequality.”
“Scotland’s drug death problem won’t be solved overnight – but with consensus, hard work and a renewed dedication to tackling it, I believe the next year can be one where we start to turn the tide.”
Following Mr. FitzPatrick’s resignation, Mairi Gougeon was appointed the new Public Health Minister.