Drug deaths in Kent have doubled in the last three years – to the highest level in the UK. Every life is precious and these deaths cause such devastation – to families, friends and local communities. It's a trend we must reverse.
There is help out there. I recently visited the Dover hub of the Forward Trust who provide drug and alcohol support services for our area. Across the South Kent coast, they help more than 500 people. Their work includes going into places like local homeless shelters, where they show volunteers how to use naloxone kits – medication which reverses overdose effects.
Most of the people the Forward Trust help suffer long-term addictions to heroin or alcohol. They told me that it's rare that new people will come to them, with very few teenagers seeking help.
Yet we know that some young people in our area are being lured into the dark world of drugs. London gangs are said to send people down to Dover to recruit local teenagers. Our Chief Inspector Mark Weller told me tackling drugs is one of his top priorities. I'm doing everything I can to support him.
Some people say the war on drugs is unwinnable. I disagree. I think it's vital we fight back. Because drugs can draw young people into gangs and a life of crime. And because drugs can kill the people closest to us.
Robert Fraser, from Deal, died at the age of 18 after being given an extremely powerful opioid. Robert was no drug addict. Yet fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin – and just a small dose was enough to be fatal.
Robert's mum Michelle wants justice for her son and for him to leave a legacy. So together we started a campaign for Robert's Law – which means tougher sentences for suppliers of fentanyl. The Crown Prosecution Service listened to our case and changed its drug offences guidance to include fentanyl.
Crucially, the Sentencing Council has now also launched a review on tougher sentences for fentanyl. Last week I met with Justice Minister Rory Stewart, who said he would seriously consider their findings and the case for Robert's Law. So we are well along the road to achieving real change.
This is such an important campaign. Michelle wants to stop any more lives being lost. I'm pleased the authorities have listened and taken action so swiftly. Normally it takes years to get people to listen. Yet our campaign – driven by Michelle's love for her son and passion for the cause – has made people stand up and immediately take note.
I'm determined to do all I can to help those affected by drugs. That's why I want people to get in touch with me – either to see what I can do to get them help, or to flag up local hotspots. If we work together, we can all fight back in the war on drugs.
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