Children as young as 12 are accessing specialist services in Hartlepool for drug or alcohol misuse.
A report that is to go to the multi-agency Safer Hartlepool Partnership later this week reports that increasing numbers of youngsters are needing to access support services.
According to the report, Hartlepool also has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the North East.
Officials plan to step up efforts over the next seven years to try to reduce the number of people abusing drink and drugs, and to make it easier for people to access help.
A report of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, states: “Drug misuse deaths are increasing in England.
“The North East region has the highest drug misuse related mortality rate in England and Hartlepool has the highest rate in the region.
“The gap between the Hartlepool and the regional and national averages has by widening from 2012 onwards.
“Hartlepool also has the highest rate of alcohol specific mortality and hospital admissions in the region.
“Availability of illicit tobacco and drugs and underage sale of alcohol is a big challenge for our borough.
“An increasing number of children and young people are identified with need to access specialist services for drug or alcohol misuse.
“Approximately 3 out of every 4 children and young people accessing services is below 16 years.
“The youngest service user is 12 years old.”
A substance misuse subgroup of the partnership spearheads a strategy and plan covering up to 2019.
On Friday, the partnership will be asked to support putting a new Drugs and Alcohol Harm Reduction delivery framework into action up until 2025.
A £25,000 grant has been secured from the Local Government Association to recruit a researcher to carry out a study of the current service.
There will be “intensified action” on prevention and early identification especially with schools and children’s services.
A community based holistic drug and alcohol treatment and recovery service was commissioned by Hartlepool Borough Council from last April for children, young people and adults.
In addition, the council has acquired Gladstone House and leased it to specialist drug, alcohol and mental health charity Addaction.
It is to provide a ‘stepping stones’ project for people in recovery.
The new centre is expected to open on April 1.
The report says Hartlepool has one of the best treatment and recovery outcomes compared to other parts of England.