A new five-year strategy is set to be launched, bringing together agencies across Kent to tackle drug and alcohol misuse.
As Dry January swings into action, it’s estimated that nearly 264,000 Kent people are drinking at increasing and high risk levels. It is believed that of the 53,000 alcohol-dependent individuals in the county who require treatment services, only around half (50%) were in treatment services in 2014/15.
Although there has been a long-term decline in the use of drugs and use is now at its lowest figure for ten years, those aged 16 to 24 years are more likely to use drugs compared to any other age group. The decline in the use of drugs has not been seen in older adults who have maintained their drug use into older age and this age group has the highest level of drug-related mortality.
Led by Kent County Council and Kent Police, the 2017 strategy replaces the previous Kent Alcohol Strategy 2016 and Kent Police Drug and Alcohol Strategy (which ends in early 2017). It has been approved by the Drug and Alcohol Partnership and discussed with other partnership Boards. It is now out to consultation with the public.
Andrew Ireland, KCC Director of Social Care and Chairman of the Kent Drugs and Alcohol Action Team said: “With the changing patterns of drug and alcohol use it is the ideal time to create the joined Drugs and Alcohol Strategy with all partners. Services must be flexible to meet the needs and be attractive to different sections of the community.
“Each district in Kent now has a local partnership ‘alcohol plan’ to deliver action on the six pledge areas of the last strategy with a strong focus on local issues including crime and disorder via the community safety partnerships, licensing, vulnerable and at risk groups, children and young people and quality of treatment.”
Both previous strategies achieved notable successes; there has been an increase in Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) and Kent Police have been involved in a range of activities on the alcohol and community safety agenda in relation to enforcement. The new strategy plans to build on previous successes and further progress treatment services, Community Safety Partnerships and District Partnerships.
Assistant Chief Constable Tony Blaker said: “Each year Kent Police deals with thousands of alcohol and drug-related incidents and I am pleased to be working with our partners to tackle this issue.
“Those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs are more vulnerable and less able to control situations because the effects can impair instincts and awareness of danger.
“We will continue to work with our partners to make Kent a safer place to live and work.”
Key areas include improving public awareness about the risks of harmful drinking and drug use, alongside highlighting the importance of increasing earlier referrals to specialist community-based treatment services from multi-agency and voluntary sector partners; including older adults and children and young people.
Andrew Scott-Clark, KCC Director of Public Health said: “This is an excellent resource for future drug and alcohol strategy implementation, resource sharing and shared learning. Improving public awareness about the risks of harmful drinking and drug use plays an important role in alerting people to harm they might not be aware of, as well as helping them to change their behaviour.
Increasing early referrals to treatment is also a key element, especially for at-risk groups.”
Treatment services in Kent currently perform well overall and often exceed national performance benchmarks. Future planned work includes partnerships with schools to provide good quality drug and alcohol education, particularly around New Psychoactive Substances (NSPs).
Protecting children and young people from alcohol harm was one of the key pledges from the last alcohol strategy and figures show that hospital admissions for children and young people have declined across Kent and for the first time are better than the South East regional rate (and similar to the national one).
Kent Police have led work that targeted and specified operations to address identified issues in licensed premises, supporting Trading Standards with test purchasing operations and supporting other licensing initiatives. Local housing authorities will support vulnerable people in housing with strategies to address housing need and homelessness.
A consultation is now underway to seek views on the strategy from individuals and their families using treatment services, taking account of national guidance and reflecting the evidence base. To give your views and find out more information, go to 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
Information on drugs and alcohol support services can be found at http://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/healthy-living/alcohol/alcohol-and-drug-support
Notes to Editors
*National calculations based on a tool by NICE (2014) – 23% of the population over 18 years old.