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Drug outcomes improving despite budget cuts

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Health | Published:

Drug deaths in the region are increasing according to a public health official, although there has been a reduction in the number of people dying from alcohol related conditions.

The information is revealed in a Telford & Wrekin Council report on the authority's drug and alcohol strategy.

The paper, from Helen Onions, a consultant in public health at Telford & Wrekin Council, states that although there has been a significant cut in the amount of money used to tackle drug and alcohol problems, there have been improvements in a number of areas.

She said: "Although the reduction in the substance misuse budget has been significant, the evidence-based strategy programme has been delivering improvements in local outcomes on various measures of alcohol and drug-related harm."

The budget for the coming year is set to be reduced by £330,000.

The report concludes that alcohol-related conditions are within the top 10 causes of reduced life expectancy for men and women in Telford & Wrekin, while drug deaths are increasing – similar to the national trend.

Benefit claimants due to alcoholism are also said to be "significantly worse" than the national average.

A number of outcomes are said to have improved in the last four years, including alcohol conditions in under 18s, the number of drug related mental health disorders, the number of opiate or crack users in contact with local treatment services, and a drop in alcohol and drug related crime.

The outcomes for those addicted to opiates such as heroin have not improved however, with 501 people receiving treatment last year.

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The report states: "Treatment outcomes for those with opiate addiction have not improved, with only five per cent of clients completing treatment in 2016/17. The proportion of clients who have been in treatment for six or more years in Telford & Wrekin is significantly worse than the England average (39 per cent of clients, compared to 31 per cent nationally). This remains a key challenge, especially as those with long term heroin dependence are ageing and increasing experiencing multiple and significant health issues.

"A total of 501 clients with opiate addiction remained in treatment in 2016/17, compared to 508 in 2013/14."

The report highlights the success of a drug treatment for people who overdose on heroin, revealing that 22 lives have been saved since 2015.

It states: "Naloxone, a drug which reverses opiate overdose, is recommended in the national drug strategy as is vital to reducing drug-related deaths. The local programme is a great local success story as the current treatment service has worked with TACT and other partners to deliver training and distribute over 550 naloxone kits since July 2015.

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"There have been 22 documented overdose reversals and therefore potentially Telford & Wrekin 22 lives saved."

Treatment outcomes for alcohol have been described as "impressive" and better than the national average.

The report states: "The Aquarius service has delivered impressive outcomes for people receiving treatment for alcohol issues since 2015. Successful completions for alcohol treatment increased to 45.7 per cent, in 2016/17 from 32 per cent in 2013/14, which was significantly better than the national average. The numbers of people through the service has also increased, to 184 completing treatment in 2016/17 compared to 155 in 2013/14."

The report will be discussed at Telford & Wrekin Council's health and wellbeing board on Wednesday.

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