Last week it was reported that Hastings has the eighth highest rate of drug-related deaths in the country. The Hastings Observer has carried the story in its online edition today (20th September 2016). I have been quoted in the article, as has the Leader of Hastings Borough Council, Peter Chowney,and an unnamed person from East Sussex County Council. (A basic lesson in PR is not to hide behind an anonymous ‘spokesperson’).
The County Council spokesperson is quoted as saying that the Council places people out of area. Here is my response to the approach that is being taken by the County Council:
“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 1990’s. 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.
“BHT Sussex’s Addiction Services only work with people from within the Brighton area. Since we made that change in the 1990’s, the long term success rate massively improved, and there is now a large and healthy recovery community in the City, partly due to the numbers who have gone through our rehabilitation services.
“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an acute drug problem and has the eighth highest rate of drug-related deaths in the country may well be to do with the out-of-date approach taken by the County Council and why, by contrast, the situation in Brighton has been improving.”