The NI Minister for Health has launched a new 10 year strategy to respond to substance use in Northern Ireland. Preventing Harm,
Empowering Recovery: A Strategic Framework to Tackle the Harm from Substance Use (2021-31)
In response to this ASCERT Chief Executive Gary McMichael said, “We welcome the publication of the new substance use strategy for Northern Ireland. We particularly welcome that the strategy recognises that more must be done to close the gaps across drug and alcohol and mental health services. We are seeing more and more people with co-existing mental health and addiction issues that have difficulty getting the support they need within the health care system.
The fact that we now have both a 10 year substance strategy and 10 year mental health strategy produced this year, is an opportunity to bring efforts together to address these closely interlinked issues in a more co-ordinated approach.
This is very relevant now as we start to see the longer term impact of the pandemic in society as we emerge from restrictions. We are very concerned that through the pandemic many people have been using alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit drugs as a way to cope with the anxiety, stress and isolation they experience, and this is in turn increasing their risk of addiction.
Most people only seek help when things have hit crisis point. We need to take a more proactive and preventative approach, with more resources being put towards community based services that can reach people at an earlier stage to support them around their alcohol or substance use before it leads to greater problems.”