Calls for action are being made after it was revealed Hastings has the eighth highest rate of deaths relating to drugs in England and Wales.
The town has now overtaken Brighton to become the drug death capital of the county with 9.1 such deaths per 100,000 of the population between 2013 and 2015, the Office of National Statistics revealed on Monday, September 12.
Brighton Housing Trust has done a lot over the last 15 years to tackle the city’s issues and its chief executive Andy Winter believes the focus needs to move to Hastings.
“Behind these tragic statistics are the lost lives of someone’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father,” he said.
“As with Brighton fifteen years ago, these statistics should ring alarms and be a call to arms for East Sussex County Council (ESCC), the NHS, Hastings Borough Council (HBC), and others.
“Unlike Brighton and Hove where there are two first rate residential rehab services, East Sussex have none.
“Perhaps these deaths will provide the catalyst to rectify this.”
HBC leader Peter Chowney believes ‘significant’ investment is needed to tackle the problems with drugs in Hastings.
“It is disappointing to see statistics such as this, particularly when the town is getting such a good press generally,” he said.
“But it does show that there are still some major social issues here, and parts of the town remain some of the very poorest in the country.
“No single organisation can hope to tackle these sorts of problems alone, and we will continue to play our part in the ‘multi-agency’ approach to improving the quality of life for all of our residents. “This involves the police, East Sussex County Council, the health service and, of course, the social housing providers.
“As I have said before, we also need continued significant public investment in Hastings if these deep-rooted problems are to be properly sorted.”
ESCC spokesman said the late of residential rehab centres is a deliberate policy to place people out of the county, as people have a better chance of success away from any negative influences in their home area.
“We commission a range of services to help people tackle issues of drug and alcohol misuse,” the spokesman said.
“These include two dedicated drop-in centres, including one in Hastings, where people can access treatment such as alcohol detox, methadone prescription, therapy or counselling.
“There are also smaller drop-in clinics in GP surgeries around the county which people presenting with these kind of problems can be referred to.
“We provide funding for small, peer-led organisations which provide community activities for people with substance misuse issues.
“These include group and peer support, where people with personal experience of these kind of issues themselves can use their own experience to help others become more resilient and to abstain from drug use.
“We also work to educate the public, including young people, about the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse.
“We continue to work with partners including the NHS, district and borough councils and service providers to try improve access to services and to help more people to get off and stay off drugs.”
The NHS Trust has been contacted for comment.
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