Health bosses are pledging a ‘dive’ into drug and alcohol abuse issues which cost the ‘local economy and care services around £6million a year’.
A council report states Hartlepool has the second highest death rate from drug misuse, and the highest under-75 death rate from alcohol-related liver disease in the North East.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month found between 2015 and 2017, 46 drug poisoning fatalities were registered in Hartlepool, at a rate of 17.4 in every 100,000 people. The national rate was 6.6 per 100,000 people.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board presented the next steps in its assessment to reduce drug and alcohol abuse in the area.
The topic is the subject of the ‘deep dive project’ for 2018/19, which will see council and health bosses come together to help people facing the issues in the area.
Interim Director of Public Health Dr Peter Brambleby said how important the issue was and the importance of helping those in need.
He said: “We must see recovering drug users as an asset and help them, giving them the support they need.
“We need to be doing things, constantly looking to address the problem, we need to do something.
“The stigma attached to them needs to be overcome.
“We need to focus on prevention but we also need a far greater ambition to show an expectation of recovery.”
Of the 46 drug poisoning deaths in Hartlepool between 2015 and 2017, 85% were registered as being down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.
The council also recognised substance misuse can have an impact on crime and care services in the area, and a Health and Wellbeing Board report said it was costing the area millions of pound each year.
The report said: “The council recognises substance misuse as a major factor in child neglect, domestic violence, acquisitive crime, anti-social behaviour and children being taken into care.
“Total cost to the local economy and caring services is around £6million per year.”
The board also announced drug and alcohol awareness and recovery groups would be taking place in the area under the Safer Hartlepool Partnership to help tackle the issue.
Cleveland Police representative on the board Jason Harwin also highlighted problems with drug and alcohol use in the area, but warned expectations must be realistic.
He said: “From a police perspective we support the big conversation surrounding this.
“The North East is one of the areas where cocaine use is the highest in the country.
“We clearly need to do everything we can, definitely, but we have got to be realistic about it.”
The needs assessment will continue throughout the year with updates on its progress provided by the Health and Wellbeing Board.
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service