By Rab McTavish
Up to £2.75 million will help people at risk from drug-related harm stay connected to life-saving services during the pandemic and beyond.
Over the next two years the funding will be used to supply and distribute smart phones and other appropriate devices, provide data and to build the skills and confidence of people using services and those who support them.
The initiative will reach a minimum of 2,000 service users and 200 staff through a collaboration between a wide range of service providers, stakeholders, service users and carers.
Funding will be also be provided to develop a range of digital technologies, encourage service innovations such as alert and responder apps and to enable the identification of any effective approaches that will support the redesign of services nationally.
Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance, pictured right, said: “Digital connectivity is an essential part of modern life, and for people who need access to drug-related services it could be a life saver.
“The ability for people to have digital access to services and family networks at these times will help save lives.
“Isolation and disconnect from services is a particular concern during the pandemic and this will help people at risk stay in touch with the services which can support them.
“This funding will help people at risk from drug related harm get the right help at the right time. For instance, it will help keep people connected to support following a near fatal overdose, after contact with outreach services, or if they are in shelters or community care settings and as part of after-care following treatment or recovery.
“As part of our national mission to tackle drug deaths we want to support more people into treatment and be confident appropriate after care is in place. This initiative will ensure those who want help are able to access it at any time, no matter where they are.”
A homeless drug addict begging on the streets of Edinburgh. Picture by Bill Heaney
Homelessness charity SIMON Chief Executive Lorraine McGrath said: “SIMON Community Scotland has been supporting people with a range of complex needs, including problem drug use, to stay connected with family and friends and access vital health and care services through digital means, particularly during the pandemic when some became even more isolated as the rest of the world moved rapidly to connecting virtually.
“We are fully in support of this initiative. It will make a big difference to people’s ability to maintain connections with their support and care and build what are increasingly critical digital life skills.
“It empowers the people we support with the freedom to make a phone call or connect face to face with someone at the precise time they are in need of help.”
Funding has been made available by the Scottish Government’s Digital Health and Care Directorate and Drug and Alcohol Substance Misuse Unit and the Drug Deaths Task Force (DDTF).
The contributions from the Scottish Government and DDTF is from the Programme for Government (PfG) commitment for 2020-21 and 2021-22 of £10 million per year for two years to tackle drug deaths. The Digital Inclusion contribution is from the PfG commitment to provide greater digital access to care.
The programme will be designed and delivered in partnership with:
Digital Health and Care / Drugs Policy, Scottish Government
Connecting Scotland Programme
Scottish Drug Deaths Task Force
Turning Point Scotland
Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations:
Drug Research Network Scotland