Concerns have been raised over an ‘inexorable rise’ in drug and alcohol problems by both police and health bosses in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council director of public health Dr Pat Riordan said issues around drug and alcohol services were one of the topics raised at a recent health inequalities workshop.
Dr Deepak Dwarakanath, representative of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust speaking at the council health and wellbeing board meeting, stated he had seen a rise in people coming forward with drug and alcohol problems.
He said: “From an acute provider perspective we are seeing an inexorable rise in acute presentation with alcohol and drug-related problems and some are sadly life threatening.
“Sadly these people are dying prematurely in their late 40s and early 50s, and I had a colleague stop me on the way in this morning saying they had seen more and more people coming through with big growing abscesses relating to recurrent injections, this is a big problem requiring intervention.”
Jason Harwin, assistant chief constable at Cleveland Police, added officers are becoming increasingly aware of it being a recurring problem in the area.
He said: “The North East is recognised as one of the hot spot locations for heroin and crack cocaine use, which has increased again, which links into the drug-related deaths.
“I do think in the future it would be really useful to do something about drug-related deaths.”
Dr Riordan said a number of measures are being put in place by the council to look at addressing the issues, which she stated have been increasing since 2013.
These include recommissioning the council drug and alcohol support services and reviewing incidents which have taken place in recent years.
She said: “We are now recommissioning our drug and alcohol services both in terms of the clinical offer but also the offer in terms of psychosocial support for these people.
“This is with a much larger emphasis on the prevention agenda which I think must take centre stage with these issues now.
“In relation to the drug-related deaths, we’ve seen annual increases in Hartlepool since particularly 2013. They were running at a particular level to that point, but since 2013 they have shot up.
“What we’re doing now is instigating two processes. A look back over the last year to understand what were the circumstances and are there any lessons we can learn.
“Then there’s an ongoing process so that we are reacting pro-actively to those deaths as we know about them as they come into the authority, so that we have a much more timely approach to what the learning could be in terms of those deaths.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service