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Activists say battle with addiction inspired their radical reform Bill

Two relentless activists have told how their long battles with addiction inspired them to write the Right to Recovery Bill that could save many others.

Steven Wishart and Annemarie Ward believe rights enshrined in the radical paper could have saved them from years of misery and chaos had it been enacted earlier.

Annemarie, chief executive of charity Favor UK, said: “This Bill has been brought about after months of consultation with lawyers but it is ingrained with decades of lived experience.

“Steven and I are in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

Annemarie Ward who is one of the co-authors of a proposed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Bill that the Tories are taking before the Scottish Parliament.

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“We would have found a far easier path to recovery if we’d had rights enshrined in law. Many of those who died in recent years were fobbed off and turned away by services and we hope to put an end to that.”

Annemarie added: “It has been presented as a Tory Bill but it’s not got anything to do with party politics.

“It’s about human rights and that’s why it deserves cross-party support.

“This is a major opportunity to start opening the doors that are so often slammed in the faces of people when they are in danger of dying.”

Steven’s campaigning for homeless to have accommodation inspired him to seek the same rights to life-saving treatment for addicts. After the Bill was presented to drugs minister Angela Constance, she promised to consider the recommendations.

If adopted, those refused treatment for drug addiction can mount a quick legal challenge that could be heard in a court if there is no adequate medical reason given.

Steven added: “I get frustrated when this gets referred to as a ‘Right to Rehab’ Bill because it’s meant to be holistic and give a right to the whole range of treatment options.

“It’s not primarily focused on rehab or abstinence, it’s about people getting a treatment they think will help them, often at a time when they might be in a life-or-death situation.

“The Bill is all options, no matter where you live, and allows you to build a treatment plan, whatever that might be. That plan becomes a legal document and challengeable by law.”

Steven admitted many people would see the Tories as unlikely bed-
fellows but they were the only political party or third sector group to show enthusiasm for the potential reforms.

He said: “I don’t see it as a party- political thing because it’s simply about someone’s rights.

“As it stands, you take what you can get and that is dependent on what area you live in – it’s a postcode lottery.

“If your drug worker doesn’t like you and you get fobbed off, that’s pretty much the end of it.

“If you have a care manager that believes ‘rehab doesn’t work’ that will put the block on rehab. It can’t be allowed to operate like this.

“Many people don’t bother seeking help after the disappointments and frustration they’ve had previously.”

Steven’s own battle with addiction started in his teens. He was hooked on drugs and endlessly looked for help.

He came through non-funded rehab and substitute prescriptions before realising he had to get away from what kept him in addiction.

He moved to Glasgow and worked his way through the homelessness sector after qualifying as a support worker.

Steven said: “I was addicted from the age of 16 to 30. I ‘died’ twice and was brought back after two overdoses. I finally broke away from the place I’d been brought up and got abstinent via the fellowships. I was homeless and slept on a couch for three months, where I went cold turkey before moving to supported accommodation.

“My experience tells me that without rights it’s difficult to get anywhere. A Right to Recovery Bill can bring massive changes.

“It could have saved me from 10 years of utter chaos, when I could easily have died. I asked for help and was turned away.” Wishart added: “We have to give people hope that there is a door open for them if they choose to get treatment.

“The holistic approach means we can’t offer a loop from prison to homeless hostel or from rehab back to homeless hostel. Those both tend to lead back to addiction. It means someone in that situation can have choice on where they go next.

“Addiction and homelessness are connected. We need a plan that gives security and a feeling the path people are on could be a positive and permanent one.

“There are costs associated with this but we believe every pound spent will pay society back at least £2.50.

“It’s not about whether we can afford it. People shouldn’t have a price on their head, they are worth more than that.”



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