Kent residents are being encouraged to share their views and experiences of local drug and alcohol services, and help shape a new five-year strategy.
Overseen by the Kent Substance Misuse Alliance – a partnership of key organisations including councils, Kent Police, emergency services and health providers – the strategy aims to tackle drug and alcohol misuse through prevention, treatment and recovery, and community safety. All the priorities in the Kent strategy are taken from local needs and are also aligned to the National Drug Strategy: “From Harm to Hope”.
Figures for 2021 estimated that nearly 308,000 people in Kent were drinking above the recommended levels of alcohol* and an estimated 15% are binge drinkers. Self-reported weekly consumption has declined significantly in the younger age groups since 2011, however this has slightly increased for those aged 45 or older and is highest amongst 45 to 65-year-olds.
Illicit drug misuse continues to be a key issue in Kent. Recreational illicit drug use is still pervasive with around 10% of adults reporting drug use within the past year. There has been an increasing trend in reported drug use in 25 to 29-year-olds.
The 2023 strategy replaces the previous Kent Alcohol Strategy and is now out to consultation with the public at www.kent.gov.uk/drugandalcoholstrategy. It builds on notable successes from the previous five-year strategy including support of the Kent Community Alcohol Partnership, early help through One You Kent services and strengthened links to prisons and criminal justice.
The Alliance reports to both the Kent and Medway Health and Wellbeing Board and the Kent Community Safety Partnership.
KCC Public Health Consultant, Jess Mookherjee said: “The heart of this Strategy is to empower, encourage and support individuals and communities to take a more active role in preventing and reducing the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol in Kent. It considers the links to mental wellbeing, health inequalities and the impact COVID19 has played on these issues.
“The new strategy takes a whole system approach which means a strong partnership is required to bring together all the relevant organisations and key individuals, share an understanding of the reality of the challenge, consider how local systems are operating and where there are the greatest opportunities for change.”
The new strategy has 13 strategic priorities, grouped under three areas; Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, and Community Safety. Some of the strategic priorities already have outcomes and some are to be identified
This strategy is driven by Kent Drug and Alcohol Needs Assessments which includes a variety of data sources such as hospital admissions, Office for National Statistics and Kent substance misuse treatment service data, taking account of national guidance and reflecting the scientific evidence
Superintendent Peter Steenhuis from Kent Police said: “This is an excellent strategy for resource sharing and shared learning placing prevention at the heart of the strategy. Early intervention and diversion strategies improve public awareness about the risks of harmful drinking and drug use, especially for young people to the personal harm they could be causing as well as wider societal harms they might not be aware of.”
A consultation is now underway to seek views on the strategy from anyone impacted by drugs and/or alcohol, including individuals that have experience of drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services, family and friends of individuals that have been impacted by drugs and/or alcohol and practitioners working with individuals that have a drug and/or alcohol support need. It will also ask for ideas on how services can be improved.
The consultation closes on 31 October 2022. To give your views and find out more information, go to www.kent.gov.uk/drugandalcoholstrategy
KCC’s online tool ‘Know Your Score’ encourages Kent residents to find out how much drinking may be affecting their health and relationships, as well as giving potentially life-saving advice from key health professionals www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore
* The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) recommends drinking a maximum of 14 units a week, spread evenly over a few days with drink free days included in the week.