Hastings drug deaths: ‘Out-of-date’ rehab policy blasted

Hastings had 9.1 drug deaths per 100,000 of the population between 2013 and 2015. Stock image SUS-160920-133001001
Hastings had 9.1 drug deaths per 100,000 of the population between 2013 and 2015. Stock image SUS-160920-133001001

The council’s ‘out-of-date’ rehabilitation policy for addicts in Hastings may have something to do with the town’s high rate of drug-related deaths, a charity boss claimed.

Hastings was named as the eighth-highest town in England and Wales for the amount of deaths related to drugs leading to calls for more action to reduce the figure.

Brighton Housing Trust chief executive Andy Winter

Brighton Housing Trust chief executive Andy Winter

Local authorities defended their record for rehab and prevention, pointing to a range of services provided ‘to help more people to get off and stay off drugs’.

But Brighton Housing Trust chief executive Andy Winter has hit back claiming the policy of placing addicts out of the county, explaining why there are no residential centres in East Sussex, ‘harks back to the 1990s’.

“I was very disappointed by the comments from East Sussex County Council on its policy to place people out of the county as it claims that people have a better chance of success away from any negative influences in their home area.

“That view harks back to the 1990s. It is now widely recognised that in order to help people sustain abstinence and recovery, they need to do so in the area where they are already settled.

“If someone does well out of area and then returns home, they have no support structures and are far more likely to relapse which is a tragedy for the individual and a waste of public funds.

“The drop-in centres described, while sometimes reducing harm, tend to result in people remaining on substitute drugs like methadone for far longer than needed, and the majority of people on methadone continue to ‘top up’ with street drugs.

“The fact that Hastings has now such an acute drug problem and has the eighth highest rate of drug-related deaths in the country may well be to do with the out-of-date approach taken by the county council and why, by contrast, the situation in Brighton has been improving.”

Hastings has overtaken Brighton for the amount of drug deaths with 9.1 such deaths per 100,000 of the population between 2013 and 2015, the Office of National Statistics revealed on September 12.

Mr Winter said the figures ‘should ring alarms’ for the authorities who responded saying much is being done, including the Hastings Borough Council leader who said more investment is needed.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it commissions a variety of services for a range of issues and in response to Mr Winter’s comments, defended its policy citing a good success rate and positive feedback.

“We have a good success rate from the model of residential rehab treatment we use and our rates for clients successfully completing treatment are improving,” an ESCC spokesman said.

“The feedback from our social workers and clients is that they prefer the model of offering residential rehab outside of the home area.

“That is not the end of the treatment and we provide intensive follow-up support to clients including peer support which allows people to build positive social networks when they return to their home area.”

Hastings eighth highest drug deaths rate in country

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