North Yorkshire and York: Appliance of science to help identify harmful substances and reduce drug-related deaths
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A 12-month police and public health collaboration project has been launched in North Yorkshire and York that uses science to identify harmful substances and reduce drug-related deaths.
The North Yorkshire Drug Analysis Project (NYDAP) aims to better understand the market profile of the substances that are in use across the area.
This will be achieved by sending 60 drug samples that have been found or seized by North Yorkshire Police - five per month - to the pioneering *MANDRAKE Laboratory in Manchester.
Within 48 hours, each sample will undergo drug analysis to determine the:
If the analysis is linked to a significant risk such as a suspected drug-related death or overdose, the analysis will be provided in under two hours to aid an emergency public health response to reduce further harm.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Simpson, from the Crime Command, said:
“This programme provides quick and accurate information to North Yorkshire Police and our Public Health partners to identify emerging harms from substances within the illegal drug market in the county of North Yorkshire.
‘’NYDAP provides, in partnership, that early intervention to identify heightened risk in the already risky environment of the illegal drug market.
“As a police and partner service, we can be more effective and efficient in protecting our communities where these risks arise.
“Knowing that these risks exist through this testing, we can focus police and partner resources specifically to protect those at risk and to target those presenting the risk.”
DCI Simpson added:
“The programme will assist in informing our educational and awareness approaches to drugs in schools, colleges, universities and within night-time economy venues. Through the programme, we can trigger any necessary public health alerts when a serious risk has been identified by the scientists.
“We’re very proud to be involved in this important and ambitious collaboration project that will help to reduce drug-related deaths, which reached a worrying 91 cases in 2021.
“This is the ultimate aim behind the project: reducing harm and saving lives.”
NYDAP involves North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Council and City of York Council’s Public Health teams, North Yorkshire Horizons Adult Alcohol and Drug Recovery Service, and the University of York.
Backed by a £20,000 community fund grant from Zoë Metcalfe, the North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, the project supports and works with other harm reduction initiatives.
The findings of the drugs analysis also allow for tailored training around those substances identified.
The University of York has been involved in the development of the project and is being supported by the MANDRAKE Laboratory team to potentially take over the testing after the initial 12 months.
It is anticipated that other police forces in the Yorkshire and the Humber region will become part of the collaboration following the 12-month project.
Craig Bosomworth, Harm Reduction Strategic Lead North Yorkshire, said:
“Prior to the project, there has been a lot of effort put into developing partnership working across police, public health, drug services and the wider system supporting the new North Yorkshire Police Drug Strategy and the forthcoming North Yorkshire Substance Use Strategy.
“This project enhances our collective intelligence about the drug market operating in North Yorkshire and York, and therefore increases our ability to provide targeted harm reduction to the relevant groups, individuals and environments that will be evidence-based and most impactful.
“For example, if we identify contaminated or particularly potent substances through the drug analysis, we will be able to quickly issue a Local Drug Information System (LDIS) Alert to help prevent harm such as toxicity and overdose which can prove fatal.
“The alerts and advice will also cascade through all our alcohol and drug support services. At every level, there will be an opportunity for intervention and prevention.
“Safeguarding and protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities is the main driver behind this project.”
Zoë Metcalfe, North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, said:
“The Commissioner’s Community Fund provided £20,000 towards this programme, supporting the police in responding quickly and effectively in the face of ever-changing trends in illegal substances.
“The fund has paid out over £2m to date, supporting services and projects region-wide, some of which will be actively working alongside NYDAP to protect particularly at-risk groups.
“Our fund has always been designed to help the public be safe and feel safe. Illicit drug use is of huge concern to the people of North Yorkshire, and we are committed to supporting harm-reduction services in any way we can to protect vulnerable people.”
*MANDRAKE – which stands for ‘Manchester Drug Analysis and Knowledge Exchange’ – was established in 2016 as England's first publicly-funded permanent city-centre based testing and harm reduction facility. The collaboration between Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Metropolitan University supports open science and agencies working towards safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the public.