Chair of new national Drug Deaths Taskforce appointed

A new taskforce to tackle the rising number of drug deaths in Scotland is to be chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson from the University of Stirling.

The Drug Deaths Taskforce has been established by the Minister for Public Health and Sport, Joe FitzPatrick MSP to enable the delivery of the recently published Scottish Government’s national drug and alcohol strategy.

The taskforce will monitor, support and facilitate the delivery of the commitments included in the strategy “Rights, Respect, and Recovery” which sets out a number of measures designed to reduce harm, and death.

The group will also examine the main causes of drug deaths, promote action to improve the health outcomes for people who use drugs, and advise on further changes in practice, or in the law, which could help save lives.

It will collate and publish good practice about what has worked in other parts of the UK and internationally, and work with partners to spread and sustain good practice in Scotland.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“I am very pleased that Professor Catriona Matheson has agreed to head up this taskforce. She has a great deal of experience in this area, both through her role as Trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and as Convenor of the Drugs Research Network Scotland.

“What Scotland faces in terms of drugs deaths is an emergency. Every one of those deaths is a tragedy and tackling this issue is a public health priority.

“I want to ensure that the work of the taskforce is driven by a strong evidence base and it is my desire to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard.

“I will give consideration to any proposals that may help to tackle this issue.”

Professor Catriona Matheson said:

“I am honoured to accept this responsibility to deliver real change through a strengthened public health approach.

“I am keen to examine the evidence, and work across the landscape, involving those with lived experience of drug use and their families.

“We need to be bold in our thinking and our actions to reverse the trend, recognising that behind the statistics is personal tragedy. “

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