Councillors' shock at more kids taking drugs in Hartlepool
Councillors spoke of their shock and concern at Hartlepool's drug and alcohol problems especially among young people.
Children aged 12 and even younger are accessing specialist help in town for drink or drug misuse.
Hartlepool also has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the North East.
The worrying statistics were presented to the multi-agency Safer Hartlepool Partnership whose members include councillors, council officers, the emergency services, health and community safety officials.
Hartlepool’s substance misuse subgroup outlined plans for an updated strategy up until 2025.
Councillor Alan Clark questioned what progress had been made on the issue since he was a teenager.
He said: “I think the statistic we have more children and young people accessing the service under 16 years is absolutely shocking.
“For me it just seems that the situation is getting worse in Hartlepool rather than better and I get really frustrated about that.
“I don’t think the strategy goes far enough. I really question the progress since the turn of the millennium, I don’t think Hartlepool has moved forward.”
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Esther Mireku, acting consultant in public health for Hartlepool, said although the figures for the town were higher than other areas, the trend for more young people using drugs and alcohol was also being seen around the country.
“The picture we have in Hartlepool is no different than anywhere else,” she said.
Ms Mireku added: “Our priority is to get more people through the service and also to look at why children and young people start misusing substances in the first place and address that.”
Members of the partnership stressed the need for different agencies that tackle the same or related issues to work together.
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “There is clearly a need for more focused and a more co-ordinated approach in certain areas.”
Ms Mireku said the substance misuse group works with other organisations to improve results including the North East alcohol charity Balance.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, chair of the partnership, asked for a report on all town drug and alcohol services to be referred to the council’s Finance and Policy Committee.
“It’s only when we have got a full picture we will be able to determine are we doing the right thing,” he said.