An emergency funding package to improve access to life-saving anti-overdose medication in the wake of the coronavirus crisis has been announced by the Scottish Government.
A pot of £166,000 will be dedicated to making Naloxone available in “new settings” during the pandemic, increasing capacity on helpline and webchat services, and a major publicity campaign signposting support for alcohol and drug users.
Help will also be made available for those affected by a loved one’s alcohol and drug use through the Supporting Families Fund.
It will include a discretionary emergency fund for families, online wellbeing activities, family meals, wellbeing packs and counselling support.
Announcing the measures on Monday, public health minister Joe FitzPatrick confirmed funding will also be ring-fenced to link people with others in recovery through the Scottish Recovery Consortium.
He said: “Responding to the coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime and it will disrupt so many lives like never before. Protecting and supporting everyone during these unprecedented times is our priority.
“We’ve worked closely with organisations on the frontline to create this package of measures to ensure we continue to support those affected by alcohol and drug use.
“By working together and observing the latest guidance, we can all play our part in keeping everyone safe.”
It is understood funds will come from the overall total of £93.8 million which is being invested in 2020/21 to reduce harm from drug and alcohol use.
This includes new funding of £20 million in the Scottish Budget to support the work of the Drug Deaths Taskforce and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships across Scotland.
It comes after health professionals and community support workers warned last month about the “devastating” effect the coronavirus outbreak could have among drug users and homeless people.
Various third sector groups have been collaborating since the crisis began and working with the NHS to mitigate the impact of a potential outbreak in at-risk communities.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said the funding had been made available to “make sure” help is on hand for those dealing with alcohol and drug-related problems.
She said: “The Scottish Government has been working on how we address drug and alcohol misuse with our Drug Deaths Taskforce and a number of organisations, including the Scottish Drugs Forum, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs and Public Health Scotland.
“Today we are providing funding of £166,000 to support those with drug and alcohol issues. Amongst other things, this will fund a publicity campaign helping people to know where they can get support during this pandemic, and it will improve access to Naloxone – a medication which reverses opiate overdoses.
“We know that times like these, which are difficult for everyone, people will need help to deal with alcohol and drug-related problems and we want to make sure that help is available.”