Radical plan to give free heroin to drug users backed by region's support workers
Support workers in the Black Country have welcomed radical plans to curb drug-fuelled crime, insisting: "We must support addicts and not punish them."
Sunny Dhadley, who works with drug addicts in the Black Country, said it was time for a 'fresh approach' to 'transform society' by assisting those suffering from substance dependence.
It comes after West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson unveiled plans that will see free heroin prescribed to druggies, rooms set aside for addicts to inject heroin and drug testing areas installed in clubs and bars.
The measures have met with a mixed response from Express & Star readers. Some say the scheme will worsen drug abuse rather than reduce it, while others say it is time that addicts were given better support.
Mr Dhadley is the manager of the Service User Involvement Team (SUIT) in Wolverhampton, which is seen as a model of best practice across Europe.
He said: "I would welcome a fresh approach in tackling drugs, as the current policy approach is evidently not working.
"I believe supporting those suffering from addiction, rather than punishing people is the way to transform lives and society.
"In my opinion, funding should be transferred from criminal justice and invested into treatment, health, employability and social support, in order to achieve the kind of outcomes that all of our communities deserve.
"Drug policy reform in the UK is long overdue and a new approach would mean that those who are most stigmatised in society would have a fair chance of becoming integrated."
Retired NHS worker Diane Pickett, 61, and her husband Joe, 62, both from Bridgnorth, said they had a 'mixed reaction' to the plans.
"Obviously there is a lot of crime attached to the drug habit, but there are also many people with illnesses through no fault of their own who can't get treatment because of the funding of the NHS," said Mrs Pickett.
"I don't think it will cut crime, i think it will produce more drug users.
"Current policing is obviously not working, or they wouldn't try this."
David Taylor, 65, from Dudley, said: "It's a bit surprising really because its a class A drug that's been banned and I think it's quite wrong.
"We’re trying to fight drug abuse with various things and the NHS is under a lot of stress.
"I can’t see how it's going to help people by giving them heroin. It will just make it worse."
He continued: "People do actually break in, pinch cars and mug people for money for heroin, and for other drugs but I don’t think they will stop.
"I think it will make it easier for people who want to go onto heroin or are already on heroin or are already on it actually to prolong the use of it.
"We need more drug awareness schemes, we need to make sure that people know what the outcome is of using heroin."
Colin Carson, 55, from Tettenhall, said: "It's like giving an alcoholic whisky in my opinion.
"When you watch programmes on TV you realise how much worse it has got over the last few years, especially in the inner-cities.
"You see all the homelessness when you come into town and you wonder how much its to do with alcohol and drug problems. Then the bigger picture is that these people will do anything to pay for these things when they’ve got a bad addiction.
"I suppose there is an argument that prescribing heroin might cut crime, but then you think that its like rewarding people for being addicts."
David Jones, 67, from Bushbury, said: "It's a good thing for some people, but not for others. I'm a bit pessimistic as to what could happen in certain circumstances.
"You need better support for people, most drug addicts are living on the streets and just abandoned by society because of their drug habits.
"It is difficult for them and its difficult for people around them. Current policy hasn't worked. You can see it happening on the streets, you can see the dealers and the people going to the dealers.
"The situation in Sweden and Holland where they provide the drugs for them does seem to take the criminality away from it, it does seem a good idea but you need the back up to go with it. Its not just about giving the drug addicts drugs, you've got to be able to back them up as well.
"There are a lot of addicts out on the streets and they do need people to help them and society is just cold shouldering them. It's not easy to get off drugs.
"They can go into rehab, come out and then anything can spark them off – any knock back can spark them back to drug taking again."