THE misuse of drugs, alcohol or other substances can be devastating for individuals, their families and the wider community.

This week we launched Operation Juneau to collectively tackle the effects of, and reduce the harm in our communities caused by, substance misuse.

I have worked and lived in East Lothian since 2004. I started here as a Constable then a Sergeant and Inspector and now as Local Area Commander. I have seen families grow up.

Some of the youths I remember chasing as a Constable, I now see working hard and many with their own families.

Only last week, a well-known person from those early years spoke to me about how they have changed, grown up and moved on.

He spoke about the challenges he faced growing up in a town where alcohol and drug-taking was the normal weekend thing to do.

He spoke fondly of the police, of how certain officers had a positive impact on him and how he now stops and says hello to them.

He wants his children to understand that police officers are here to keep people safe and not use them as a tool to instil fear and gain some discipline, which is counterproductive.

He and so many others have new lives now, jobs and families to support and it was really good for me to chat with him.

Sadly, this is not always the outcome, and sometimes substance abuse takes over.

Scottish Government figures are showing increased rates of drug-related deaths across the country.

Every day in my office, I review the ongoing enquiries and incidents which have occurred in the previous 24 hours with my team.

When I see a name I recognise from my early days who has been involved in serious crime related to substance misuse I wonder, could we have done more?

That is why Operation Juneau is so important to me.

It’s about ensuring that everyone does everything they possibly can to support those affected and to give them the best possible opportunity and pathways for the best outcomes.

There can be many health, social, economic and personal factors involved and we want to help people understand what these are and support them so that they can turn things around.

Early intervention is key and that is why we are piloting a new information-sharing process with health services to get the right support to them quicker.

Anti-social behaviour and disorder are often associated with substance misuse and we will be looking at long-term plans to reduce this by taking a whole systems approach to offending.

As the chair of the Community Justice Partnership I am ensuring we can collectively provide the best outcomes for all, especially during these tough times.

Operation Juneau is a big part of this and we will see a long-term multi-agency taskforce formed to reduce drug-related deaths and ensure East Lothian is a safe place to live, work and visit.