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HIT Hot Topics 2023

Speaker

Anna Millington

Organisation: harm reduction mother2mother
Pronouns: She/Her

Anna Millington’s Topic

Mothers who use drugs: safeguarding who from what? Mothers are a vulnerable part of the community of people who use drugs and yet they are often effectively excluded by harm reduction services that refuse to meet their needs or provide services they can trust. Afraid of accessing support, they can often only get injecting equipment via peer-delivered underground IEP, or have their reliance on others exploited by demands for services or money in return for injecting equipment. Anna will explain some of their justified fears, explain the harms to both mothers and children and focus on positive ways to engage with this group and provide them with the injecting equipment they need.

Identified in her early teens as a ‘prolific offender’ Anna has a long history of lived experience within the criminal justice system, and both negative and positive experiences of harm reduction and drug treatment services.

After her last prison sentence in 2001, Anna gained a degree in criminology at Northumbria University. She was asked by the NTA to represent women’s issues on the National Service User Advisory Group and was an expert by experience for the NTA on the Hidden Harm Agenda and the IDTS program where she delivered core IDTS training to prison healthcare – often in prisons, she had previously been housed within. She has also worked at the regional and national level for key treatment providers.

Whilst others mainly identified her by what she currently did or what she had done in the past, she has always identified herself first and foremost as a mother. This was a facet of her life that was continually ignored throughout her criminal justice, drug treatment, and harm reduction interactions unless it was related to punitive actions.
She has spent the last 20 years working with a focus on women, particularly Mothers who use drugs both as a professional and as a peer. She founded the HR M2M network in her local area having identified the lack of adequate provision for Mothers who use drugs.

The harm reduction network identifies and provides injecting and smoking equipment to mothers who are shielding themselves from all services. It also provides practical support where needed. These mothers often feel locked into a no-win position and know coming forward for help will likely mean referral to social services. This often has a negative outcome. The Northeast of England has the highest removal of children rates in the country. Some of these mothers were taken from their mothers who used drugs. Harm reduction and drug treatment services/organisations are aware of the gaps in provision but have continued to ignore this sector of the using community. Whilst those in the using community are subjected to stigma in general – there is additional moral outrage and punishment that is directed at mothers who use drugs.

It is time for change.

Anna Millington

Anna Millington’s Topic

Mothers who use drugs: safeguarding who from what? Mothers are a vulnerable part of the community of people who use drugs and yet they are often effectively excluded by harm reduction services that refuse to meet their needs or provide services they can trust. Afraid of accessing support, they can often only get injecting equipment via peer-delivered underground IEP, or have their reliance on others exploited by demands for services or money in return for injecting equipment. Anna will explain some of their justified fears, explain the harms to both mothers and children and focus on positive ways to engage with this group and provide them with the injecting equipment they need.