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Health / Health and care partnership encouraged to explore new treatment method for people using heroin

Alex Armitage.

SHETLAND’s health and social care partnership has been encouraged to think about new ways of supporting people who use heroin.

Integration joint board (IJB) member Alex Armitage, who has campaigned for drug reform through the Scottish Green party, said heroin assisted treatment has provided positive results in boths trials and existing clinics.

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It sees people prescribed pharmaceutical heroin under supervised conditions in the aim of tackling the public health risks caused by street use.

Speaking at a meeting of the board on Thursday, Armitage encouraged the IJB to consider a “significant widening” of the remit of the local drugs and alcohol team.

He mentioned in particular a heroin assisted treatment clinic. If there was one in Shetland, it would only be the second in Scotland.

Heroin assisted treatment aims to help users of opioids who do not always have success with conventional care.

Research has showed that health outcomes for participants improved, illicit consumption was reduced as did crime related to raising money for buying drugs.

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Armitage’s views were supported by SNP councillor Robbie McGregor, who has written to Scottish drugs policy minister Angela Constance on the matter.

“I think we all recognise that across Scotland and including in Shetland we do have a significant issue with the health, social and economic justice burden of people who use drugs including heroin,” Armitage said.

“There is a significant increase in need to cater and provide care for this extremely vulnerable group of people.”

He said there was “extremely positive evidence” from heroin assisted treatment clinics in Middlesborough, Glasgow, Vancouver and Switzerland.

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The studies show that that this yields “significantly improved results for the recovery and optimisation of health care”, he said.

IJB chief officer Brian Chittick suggested the local alcohol and drug partnership may be a better forum for the idea.

Councillor McGregor, meanwhile, said he felt “very, very strongly” about the issue.

“Central government has to have some input into this,” he added.

“I know what Brian [Chittick] says about taking this to another forum, but I think this could also be an IJB matter.”

The meeting heard, however, that any funding from the Scottish Government in this area needs to be approved by the Shetland Alcohol and Drug Partnership in the first instance.

The partnership’s Wendy McConnachie said she was more than happy to discuss the matter with Armitage and McGregor.

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