The chief executive of a homeless charity said Hastings needs more services ‘that work and change lives’ after figures showed the town was third worst in the country for heroin related deaths between 2014 and 2016.
Andy Winter, the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust – which operates a number of services in Hastings and St Leonards – made the comments after figures released by the Office for National Statistics found there were 6.5 deaths per 100,000 residents in Hastings between 2014 and 2016 were as a result of heroin or morphine misuse.
The figures showed Hastings was third behind only Blackpool and Burnley as the worst hit areas in England and Wales.
In 2016, Hastings was named the eighth-highest town in England and Wales for drug related deaths which prompted Mr Winter to call on authorities in East Sussex to do more ‘to help more people to get off and stay off drugs’.
After the latest figures were released, Mr Winter echoed those calls and said: “In 2016 I was critical of local authorities in East Sussex for failing to provide local residential rehabilitation services for those with alcohol and drug addictions. A spokesperson for East Sussex County Council said that it was better to send people away for treatment. That approach was prevalent in the 1980s and 90s, but experience has shown that it does not work.
“Brighton and Hove used to have the highest rate but the city has two local residential rehabilitation services, one run by my organisation, the other by the social care charity Care Grow Live, and the number of drug-related deaths has fallen dramatically. There are several reasons for this, not least residential rehabilitation services for local people.
“I repeat my call for local authorities in East Sussex to set up residential rehab services. I am happy to offer my assistance to bring this about. We really need services that work, that save and change lives.
“It is not right that people continue to die when we can do something to change that.”
The figures released in 2016 – which examined the number of drug-related deaths between 2013 and 2015 – saw Hastings overtake Brighton as the worst hit area in Sussex with 9.1 deaths per 100,000 residents as a result of drug misuse.
Last week’s figures showed a decrease in the number of deaths per 100,000 residents but news of Hastings becoming the third-worst area for such deaths was described as ‘a concern’ by Hastings Borough Council.
A spokesman said: “These are very sad statistics. Whilst we are not the worst in the country it is obviously a concern for us here in Hastings.
“There are no easy solutions, but each death is a personal tragedy, and we are working closely with our partners at East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police and the NHS to reduce drug misuse.”