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Drug related deaths are at a record high – we must now take collective action

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A public health emergency is occurring in England – each year thousands of people are dying from drug related causes. Stigma, discrimination, disinvestment and the erosion of wider support systems have taken their toll on a group of people who are developing multiple health challenges as they get older. Over 4,500 people died in 2020, a truly intolerable statistic, and one that is likely to continue rising without swift and targeted action.

Although the causes of deaths may be complex, with many factors beyond our control, we believe that treatment and recovery providers nevertheless have a key role to play in the response and must use their power to keep people safe and save lives. Rates will not reduce from an all-time high without significant and co-ordinated effort. Our ability to collectively problem-solve has never been more needed.

In May, senior leaders from third sector and NHS treatment providers will come together at a historic summit to collaborate, share knowledge and expertise, and agree on the steps needed to address drug deaths in the England.

This will form the basis of a published Charter, which will be a shared agreement and commitment to carry out a series of achievable actions that we believe will help reduce drug related deaths.

The coordination of the project has been led jointly by the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance and Collective Voice, the national alliance of drug and alcohol treatment and recovery charities. We have consulted extensively with the provider organisations as well as lived experience led organisations and wider stakeholders. The summit in May will also involve experts by experience.

If you have any questions on the Charter please contact Peter Keeling and look out for a blog to follow in April.

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Collective Voice is the national charity working to improve England’s drug and alcohol treatment and recovery systems