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Collective Voice responds to the ACMD’s report ‘Commissioning impact on drug treatment’

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Collective Voice analysis of resources available to fund drug treatment shows a 25% reduction since 2013. The government’s official expert body on drug policy, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), has today published a report which highlights how significant reductions in funding have “compromised” the treatment system’s capacity to deliver effective evidence-based interventions. In particular, the ACMD questions the adequacy of current levels of funding to deliver the standards of care required by the newly published Department of Health clinical guidelines and the aspirations of the Home Office’s new drug strategy, both published on the same day in July.

Collective Voice very much welcomed both the drug strategy and the clinical guidelines as providing an appropriate practice and policy context for drug treatment in England. Unfortunately, as the ACMD indicates, in the current financial climate “it is difficult to see how the aspirations of the drug strategy can be achieved.” It also identifies a “mismatch between the recently published clinical guidelines and underfunded local drug treatment systems’ ability to deliver.”

The ACMD describes the drug treatment system in England as having earned a well-deserved international reputation for excellence. It believes this is now significantly under threat as reductions in funding are forcing local authorities, who are responsible for commissioning treatment, to restrict the services they offer their communities. This not only prevents people from being able to recover from addiction but also undermines the current contribution of local treatment systems to reducing crime and restricting the spread of blood-borne viruses such as HIV. It is particularly concerning that cuts are continuing when both Public Health England and the ACMD have identified continued investment in treatment as the most important step that can be taken to reduce the toll of drug-related deaths which stand at record levels for the third year in a row.

The ACMD recommends that “government give serious consideration to how current levels of resources can be protected.” Collective Voice is keen to work with central and local government to explore how best value can be delivered from current expenditure and future investment maintained.

Responding to the ACMD report, Karen Biggs, CEO of Phoenix Futures and Chair of Collective Voice, said:

“The ACMD report sets out clearly how challenging the environment has become. We know that effective treatment saves lives, helps families stay together and makes our communities safer. The government shares the sector’s ambition to meet the needs of those impacted by substance misuse but without some change it will be increasingly difficult to do.

“Despite the challenging external environment, the third sector providers will continue to work hard to find ways to deliver the innovation required to meet the broader aims of the drug strategy. The costs of not doing so are too high.”

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