The United Kingdom Harm Reduction Alliance (UKHRA) would like to contribute to current discussions within the NTA around the nature and notion of Diversity and drug treatment.
There is a danger and fear that by confusing Diversity in its broadest sense with the specific needs of easily identifiable, visible minority groups, we run the risk of doing a major disservice to the myriad, complex issues that affect all drug using communities. Diversity is not simply about race, culture and religion. It also includes gender, sexuality, age, disabilities, lifestyle choices, residency, drug of choice, treatment options, socio-economic factors, criminality, politics, heritage and numerous other 'identifiers'.
The UKHRA would, therefore welcome a Diversity statement that does not undermine the necessary and valuable work that the NTA is trying to achieve in improving equality of access and quality of outcome for all, by appearing too narrow-focused and tokenistic.
The UKHRA believe that by fully engaging the individual in the development and delivery of their own drug treatment and support programmes, we can work to ensure that the range of diverse and complex needs that influence and shape users lives can be supported and addressed. We believe that by creating greater flexibility within drug treatment services and programmes (wider range of opening times, less punitive measures, greater treatment options, more trust) and greater creativity in how we promote and sell our services, drug-using communities will begin to view treatment as not only something that is appropriate for them, but something that they actively want to engage in.
Furthermore, we need to ensure that a wide range of users are also effectively involved in the strategic development of drug policy in order to enable issues of diversity to be reflected in the decisions that will affect their lives. By integrating users into strategic development and service delivery, we believe we can begin to break down some of the divisions that exist in our wider communities, and address the stigma that users continue to face. It is our belief and sincere hope that removing these barriers will eventually alleviate the fear of reprisal or censure that many users still face, and will encourage a wider range of users to come forward, regardless of their background, beliefs or however they choose to define themselves.