A group of MPs came to Brighton and Hove today (Monday 9 July) to learn about innovative work to reduce drug-related harm.
The committee, made up of a cross-party group of MPs and chaired by former Labour minister Keith Vaz, is carrying out an inquiry into drugs policy.
Members wanted to visit Brighton and Hove after hearing from Dr Lucas about the innovative work being done locally to reduce drug-related harm.
In particular she was keen for them to hear about the impact of an approach based on treating drug addiction as a health problem rather than as a criminal offence.
They heard from Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, who has pioneered Operation Reduction, which Sussex Police uses to steer drug users into treatment.
And they will meet individuals who have taken part in the city’s RIOTT (randomised injecting opioid treatment trial) programme.
The MPs will then pay a visit to Brighton Housing Trust and speak with people on BHT’s residential treatment programme.
The committee heard from three people who had been helped by BHT as well as to the trust’s Addiction Services staff.
The three former drug users spoke about their experiences of the criminal justice system and their commitment to an abstinence-based form of treatment.
BHT chief executive, Andy Winter, said: “What clients value about our approach is the level of responsibility given to them in the running of the community and the trust we show in their ability to do this.
“A focus of BHT’s Addiction Services is the role played by current and former residents in delivering the service.
“This includes the use of ‘recovery buddies’ – former residents who return to mentor new residents.
“They really enhance the service provided by paid staff.
“Residents are responsible for maintaining a safe, alcohol and drug-free environment and for making decisions on how the service is run.
“This ensures that residents are prepared for ‘normal’ life after leaving the service, to budget, manage cash, maintain safety and contribute to a wider community of recovering addicts.”
Mr Winter said that 24 former clients had formal volunteering roles within Addiction Services in the past year.
He added that three former clients were employed in a professional capacity as part of BHT’s commitment that 15 per cent of staff should be former clients by March 2013.
Dr Lucas said before the visit: “Brighton and Hove is making steady progress reducing drug-related deaths and harms in the city.
“Our evidence-based approach is an example of best practice and I think we have a lot to teach national policy-makers.
“Today’s visit will highlight the benefits for individuals and for the community of treating drug use as a health problem.
“MPs on the select committee will get to hear from drug users about what kind of treatment works and hopefully see for themselves why central government needs to support a range of different options.
“I will be taking the opportunity to stress the need to consider decriminalising personal drug use as the first step towards a more rational evidence-based national policy.”
The committee will hear further evidence tomorrow (Tuesday 10 July) in its usual location back at Westminster.