Spotlight on Substance Misuse
yesterday (25 June 2018) the Revolving Doors Agency the seventh in its spotlight series highlighting best practice by Police and Crime Commissioners in tackling different issues. The report, Spotlight on Substance Misuse, brings together examples of good practice with a view to raising awareness about the link between substance misuse, associated health inequalities and crime and encourage PCCs to develop programmes, which take a public health approach to tackle the root causes of crime.
Interestingly, Revolving Doors’ recent review of PCC police and crime plans from across the country showed that 9 out of 10 PCCs identify substance misuse as a problem in their area, yet only 3 out of 10 have set it as a priority. This spotlight brings together examples of good practice with a view to raising awareness about the link between substance misuse, associated health inequalities and crime and encourage PCCs to develop programmes, which take a public health approach to tackle the root causes of crime.
Examples of good practice
The report highlights seven, very varied, examples of emerging best practice including
- Heroin Assisted Treatment in the West Midlands. The approach of prescribing heroin to individuals who have not responded well to methadone-based treatment eight drug policy recommendations that the West Midlands PCC is implementing; the others are: diverting people away from the criminal justice system, regional drug interventions programme, drugs early warning programme, safety testing of drugs in night time districts or festivals, naloxone provision, drug consumption rooms and taking money from organised criminals to improve drug services.
- Checkpoint diversion project in Durham. Low level offenders are given an alternative to prosecution by encouraging them to voluntarily engage with the police and services provided by a number of agencies instead of getting a criminal sanction. The Checkpoint project aims to reduce reoffending and the number of victims by addressing the underlying causes of offending, improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, and reduce demand on local health and criminal justice services, including the police. This project has proved extremely popular and a number of other areas are looking at implementing it.
- Partnership approach to high impact drinkers in Surrey. The High Impact & Complex Drinkers projects delivers an early intervention approach which supports people who experience drug and alcohol dependency, often alongside homelessness and poor mental health. The project aims to break down social barriers, improve community wellbeing and reduce demand on local services.
- Supporting veterans with substance misuse needs in Derbyshire. Another early intervention project, “Stand to” brings together highly trained staff, volunteers and peer mentors (most of whom are ex-forces) to address the specific issues veterans and their families may experience.
The impact of substance misuse on policing is broad and ranges from relatively minor incidences, such as drinkers loitering near residential streets, through to severe, such as violent crime. Some estimates suggest that alcohol-related incidences take up as much as half of frontline police time. Tackling drug related crimes across the UK costs police forces £1 billion, and £5.8 billion for the rest of the criminal justice system.
PCCs have the commissioning power to invest in what works and have the influence to bring together health, social care and housing sectors to support people and communities affected by substance misuse, to stop people being caught in the revolving door of crisis and crime. Many PCCs are doing just this, reframing substance misuse as a matter of public health, as much as a matter of law enforcement.