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Respect for Release presentation: \'Grassroots strategies to overcome legal barriers to drug user activism\'
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Respect for Release presentation: \'Grassroots strategies to overcome legal barriers to drug user activism\'

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Mat Southwell, one of Respect\'s Founders and Organisers recently gave a speech at the Release conference in Derby. His paper reviewed the history of drug user organising and the state of hard drug …

Mat Southwell, one of Respect\'s Founders and Organisers recently gave a speech at the Release conference in Derby. His paper reviewed the history of drug user organising and the state of hard drug user organising in the UK. He also described the Respect model of organising and presented a call to arms to drug user activists in the UK and to those who want to join in the fight for drug users rights. The slides from his presentation can be viewed in this document.

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  • 1.  
  • 2. Grassroots strategies to overcome legal barriers to drug user activism Mat Southwell
  • 3. Overview
    • Brief history of drug user organising
    • Theoretical models of drug user organising
    • Treatment Consumerism vs Grassroots Activism
    • Towards a new model of drug user organising in the UK
  • 4. The two foundations of Drug Users Movement
    • Dual roots of drug user movement date back to late 1970s
    • CCMP the forerunner of the National Association of Methadone Advocates in USA – Treatment Consumerism
    • Rotterdam Junkiesbund in Netherlands – Grassroots Organising
      • Challenging negative attitudes including radio show
      • Harm reduction innovation including the world’s first needle and syringe programme
      • Consumer rights within supply networks drives up quality
  • 5. New models of organising - Drug Users Movement
    • Australian IV League (AIVL): response from people who inject drugs to advent of HIV/AIDS including operating needle and syringe exchanges – Public Health Model
    • Dance safety groups – chill outs, advice and pill testing – Public Health Model
    • Human rights model sees stronger engagement with drug law reform agenda and promotes work across and between different groups of people who use drugs
    • Healthy movement should be engaging in all five domains
  • 6. UK History of Drug User Organising
    • Early adoption of harm reduction by professional led to institutionalised model. Needle and Syringe (NSP) programmes in other settings were a form of community activism (US illegal NSPs) or part of drug user organising (AIVL, New Zealand etc)
    • As result harm reduction has been ‘reduced’ to needle exchange. NSP have become detached from street drug scenes where 50% of people who use drugs don’t inject in UK
    • Lack of community outreach and peer support in UK compounds this situation
  • 7. NTA’s approach to Drug User Organising
    • Focus on service user involvement (treatment consumerism)
    • Not committed to truly empowered treatment relationship, as described in DoH’s Expert Patient model
    • Community Outreach 100 x more cost effective than Individual Outreach (Broadhead) but hardly used in UK
    • Community and peer support approaches not part of dialogue in UK – resistance to meaningful engagement
    • 2 year drug free rules continue as symbol of rejection of experiential expertise
  • 8. Development of progressive partnership
    • Despite NTA, the culture in UK drug services has changed and positive examples of meaningful representation exist
    • RIOTT – people already on injectable prescriptions were actively consulted during design and delivery of pilot
    • Release Heroin Helpline – run by and for people who use heroin
    • Gold Standard Team Drug Diversion Research – funded by drug company. Local barriers to implementation were technical not based on objections to research being delivered by people who use drugs
    • Many local partnerships between professionals and people who use drugs exceed constrained approach fostered by NTA
  • 9. Mat Southwell & Tam Miller AKA: Mr White & Mr Brown Private sector training, consultancy and research service run by and for people who use drugs. Team’s unique selling point is its dual professional and experiential expertise. Special focus on emerging drug trends. GST plays a role described by Dr Sloboda from NIDA as bridge-building – fostering communication and learning between academic, practice and using communities.
  • 10.  
  • 11. Doctors & Crack Users
    • Royal College of General Practice and the Crack Squad worked in partnership to exchange ideas and experiences of crack related problems
    • Innovation training model allowed both groups to describe their concerns and then work together on solutions
    • Over time this approach led to RCGP Guidelines of Crack and specialist practice interventions such as the 8 Point Health Check for Crack Users
  • 12.  
  • 13. Professionals & Ketamine Users
    • GST and University College London have brought together a coalition of experts to provide a unique innovation training event for people who use ketamine
    • Attempt to repeat and accelerate the outcomes of the RCGP crack training programme with new emerging drug trend
    • People who use ketamine will able to seek private advice from specialists and also take part in group discussions.
    • Professionals will capture and disseminate learning from the day
  • 14.  
  • 15. Protecting the health & defending the human rights of people who use drugs in the UK
  • 16. The Launch of West Country Respect
    • Group formed in East London in mid-1990s and groups also existed in Jersey & Brighton during this period
    • Grassroots drug user group in Junkiesbund tradition
    • Aim to re-launch group in West Country and establish it as the voice &‘union’ of the local drug scene.
    • Modeling approach to other areas & inviting others to launch groups
    • Bath Rugby is centrally located in Bath, a good metaphor for Bath Rugby’s prominence in the city
    • Drug scandals at club became focus for direct action event in support of Release’s Nice People Take Drugs campaign
  • 17.  
  • 18.  
  • 19.  
  • 20.  
  • 21. Bath Chronicle Website
    • ‘ The police should be waiting for them. They should be arrested, taken away for searches, and held while their homes are raided’
    • View from reader
  • 22.  
  • 23.  
  • 24.  
  • 25.  
  • 26.  
  • 27. Review of FaceBook as campaigning tool
    • Over 200 fans joined FaceBook within a month
    • Able to benefit from peer recommendation within friendship groups
    • Privacy features give some protection to members
    • Good networking tool to help spread Respect to new areas and for links with groups like Students for Sensible Drug Policy
    • Requires dedicated and consistent management
    • Too exposing for many who need alternative, sometimes indirect, communication systems. AIVL FaceBook coordinator reports similar constraints
  • 28.  
  • 29. Features of Respect Model
    • Combined health & human rights focus
    • Multi-drug user group
    • Mobilising people who use drugs through existing peer, supply & virtual networks
    • Coalition of the ‘Innies’ & the ‘Outies’
    • Social supply model & legal advice service
    • Below radar harm reduction campaigns
    • Redefining legal constraints through action