01:35PM, Wednesday 08 December 2021
Thames Valley Police has begun a new partnership with a substance abuse charity to break the cycle of substance abuse and offending.
Druglink has received £75,000 funding from the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), which acts as a hub of services to tackle crime on a community level.
Those found in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs by police can be referred to Druglink’s tailored intervention programme.
If a participant does not attend, they may be summoned to court.
On completing the course they are signposted to other local services for ongoing support.
“This isn’t just for people at the deep end of addiction, but young people and people at an early stage,” said chief inspector Jason Kew of the VRU.
“It’s about better education and awareness.”
For some participants, this scheme will be their first introduction into the dangers of certain substances and effects, such as the toxic reaction between cocaine and alcohol.
The scheme was piloted in Maidenhead and Windsor. Ch Insp Kew says that that several hundred people have been helped through the programme so far.
The existing youth programme has had a high success rate, he added – with a 93 per cent completion rate.
More than 50 per cent of young people stayed with the service beyond the scheduled six weeks to access ongoing support.
“It’s brilliant to see a local initiative coming to the national stage,” said Ch Insp Kew.
“I’m confident this will begin to turn the tide on drug-related deaths.”
The Druglink contract ties in with the Government’s new drugs strategy.
Though some pundits voiced concern that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeated a regressive mantra on ‘zero tolerance’, Ch Insp Kew thinks the Government’s stance is ‘well-balanced’.
“It takes on all but one of two of Dame Carol [Black]’s recommendations,” he said.
Health professional Dame Carol’s Government-commissioned independent review of drugs contained 32 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of prevention and treatment.
“There might be a ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric [from Boris Johnson] but underneath the soundbites, there are some very promising parallels to the public health approach,” said Ch Insp Kew.
“This isn’t going ‘soft’ on drugs – there’s nothing ‘soft’ about preventing deaths,” he said.
“This is a criminal justice outcome and an approach which benefits communities.
“Thames Valley Police continues to take a strong enforcement stance against drug dealers and county lines gangs whose evil trade bring misery to those struggling with addiction, those they exploit and communities blighted by the crime and violence fuelled by drugs,” he said.
“But we know that we must also support those who misuse drugs, alcohol and other substances so that we can prevent harm, stop the offending they commit and reduce the demand for illegal drugs.”
He added that the intensiveness of the intervention is ‘arduous.’
“The first stage involves that person being honest with themselves and that is hard,” he said.
Tara Lock, training and diversion team leader at Druglink, said:
“In recent years, difficult times have led people in everyday situations to increase their consumption of substances.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a hugely negative impact on mental health and well-being. We know how easily these situations can get out of control.
“With the right education and support we believe this project will help guide decision making and direct people to the help they otherwise would not be able to find.”