Drug Treatment Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:30 pm, 16th July 2019

I thank my right hon. Friend for making that important point. Durham constabulary’s Checkpoint scheme, through which low and medium-level offenders with drug dependency are diverted into treatment rather than the criminal justice system, has reduced arrests by 11% and convictions by 9.7%, and has made a positive contribution in relation to participants’ drug use, physical and mental health, finances, accommodation status and relationships. There are benefits right across society when we send people into help and treatment, rather than into custody.

A number of stakeholders have identified that the lack of resources not only puts a strain on current treatments and activities, but stifles innovation in new ideas and treatments. That leads me to another key point, which is on our wider approach to drug treatment and policy. There are measures that we can take to reduce deaths and that would lead to less demand on drug treatment services, but the Government are either not encouraging or not permitting them. The most obvious is what many call drug consumption rooms, although I prefer the term overdose prevention centres, which are aimed at those with severe addictions. People will take their drugs—they have them in their possession, so they will inject them, and there is no way that we can stop them doing that—but rather than being left to inject their drugs in a bedsit or back alley, alone with an increased risk of overdose, they can go to one of the centres, where a nurse is on hand; they can use in a sterile clinical space with medical supervision, and naloxone on hand to reverse any overdose.

There are two great benefits to the centres. First, they save lives: no one dies of an overdose in such facilities. Secondly, they also have services for addicts to engage with. It might be the first time that addicts have come into contact with services, so they could be encouraged into other treatment options. At least 100 drug consumption rooms operate in at least 66 cities around the world, in 10 countries. In a number of European countries, such as in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, supervised drug consumption has become an integrated part of services offered within drug treatment systems.

Police and crime commissioners and health professionals have been assessing the value of piloting such facilities in various areas, but the Government position is to block the pilots. Furthermore, the Government are unwilling to revisit the legislative framework, and so are insistent that we cannot make provision for the centres. However, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction last year:

“There is no evidence to suggest that the availability of safer injecting facilities increases drug use or frequency of injecting”.

Equally:

“These services facilitate rather than delay treatment entry and do not result in higher rates of local drug-related crime.”

Drug consumption rooms, overdose prevention centres or whatever we want to call them simply make sense, and it is very regrettable that the Government will not allow them to become part of our treatment landscape.

On the subject of innovative models of service delivery, I mention the Checkpoint scheme in Durham.