Wigan police are trailblazing a drug alert system to get a better picture of substance abuse in the area and so potentially save lives.
The drugs early warning system is an online network of frontline staff from police, health, prison service and others agencies, which allows participants to share dangerous and emerging drug trends in their local area.
The changing potency of traditional drugs – for example, ecstasy is 10 times more potent than it was a decade ago – and new psychoactive substances such as Spice, make it increasingly difficult for agencies and frontline staff to keep up-to-date with new drug trends and changing legislation.
Commissioned by Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, the system gives frontline staff an easy way to share information and concerns about new, dangerous and contaminated drugs with colleagues both on their patch and other boroughs of Greater Manchester.
This information feeds into a panel of experts, including medics, chemists, toxicologists, police, public health and drug specialists, to decide next steps, ranging from alerting other agencies across Greater Manchester to issuing safety messages to the wider public.
The system has been running successfully in Salford since 2013 and Oldham since 2015 connecting more than 60 professionals in each area. Networks have also been set up in Bury and Rochdale, and will roll out across the remaining boroughs including Wigan.
Mr Lloyd said: “Drug deaths are at an all-time high, with the vulnerable in our communities at most risk of harm.
“Addressing this issue and keeping people safe is of course a challenge for us all but by embedding this network of professionals across Greater Manchester we are empowering frontline staff to raise concerns, share information quicker, and work together to tackle emerging issues and potentially save lives.”