By David Jamieson,
All public policy should be informed by open debate. I organised the West Midlands Drug Policy Summit as an opportunity to invite open thinking and create a space for that sensible and mature discussion. On 15th December 2017, organisations involved in drug policy from across the region attended the summit. They were also given the opportunity to share their views and shape the agenda through a prior consultation.
The following recommendations are based on ideas proposed to us in our consultation and at the summit. There was consensus that, at the very minimum, these ideas were worthy of being closely looked at for their ability to reduce crime and prevent harm.
As background to the summit, my offi ce produced a hard-hitting ‘cost of drugs’ report in September 2017.1 It revealed that £1.4bn is the estimated annual cost of substance misuse to the West Midlands region. This is the cost to society of drug-related crime, health service use, drug-related deaths and social care.
Half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is committed by people who use heroin, crack cocaine or powder cocaine regularly. This represents one in fi ve crimes reported to West Midlands Police and tens of thousands of victims. Every three days in the West Midlands somebody dies from drug poisoning, with a death every four hours in England.
Despite the good work being done by many, collectively drug policy is failing. This failure means the public put up with more crime, public services are put under more strain, and not enough is done to reduce the harm of those suffering from addiction.
The effective provision of mainstream treatment and harm-reduction services is the foundation of good drug policy. These services, like the police and wider public sector, have faced signifi cant cuts to their funding in recent years. The knock on effect of these cuts is becoming clear, with drug related deaths at an all-time high for the fourth year in a row, burglary and violent crime on the rise, and an estimated 22,500 children in the West Midlands growing up with a parent or parents suffering from serious drug problems.