Split over how best to help people with drug and alcohol problems in Hartlepool

Councillors clashed over proposals on how to reshape the town’s drug and alcohol treatment services.

By Nic Marko
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019, 16:45
Picture by PA

A report before Hartlepool Borough Council Finance and Policy Committee recommended the council approved proposals to move to a model where the drug and alcohol treatment services were fully commissioned and outsourced.

Hartlepool has the highest death rates from drug misuse and alcohol related liver disease in the North East and councillors have been split over how best to tackle the problem in terms of services.

Council leader Coun Shane Moore backed the move and said the full service needs to be integrated, adding he is concerned drug related deaths could continue to increase otherwise.

However several councillors raised concerns over the move, which would result in part of the service which was previously carried out in-house, being sourced out and commissioned.

Coun Moore said: “Unless we start integrating these services and helping people they are just going to be stuck in the same cycle and I’m worried we’ll continue to see an increase in the drug related deaths in the town.

“Whilst the in-house service does provide a very good service to those people it actually deals with, it’s failing the larger proportion of people who need to access the service.”

However Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher noted the committee voted in March this year to retain and strengthen the current model, which features in-house provision of psychosocial support and commissioned provision for clinical prescribing.

He also noted figures had shown the offer in Hartlepool was improving, and questioned why the changes were being made.

He said: “It sits really uncomfortably with me that they were brought in-house to provide a better service, I was told we were providing a better service because more people were successfully going through that service and getting a better service from the council rather than the providers.

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“To be told now its going outside, its unacceptable.”

Coun Dave Hunter also said he felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the outsourcing, with Coun Paddy Brown and Coun Jim Lindridge sharing concerns and calling for the item to be deferred.

Sally Robinson, council director of children and joint commissioning services, said further work has shown ‘people are falling through the cracks’ and the proposed changes should bring a reduction in the drug-related death figures.

She added figures previously brought to committee were correct at the time but since then further work has shown the change is needed.

She said: “What we’re looking for is an integrated model that can reach everybody.

“If we continue to have these two areas of service which really is not working in an integrated way, people are falling through the cracks of those two services.”

A final decision was ultimately deferred to the next finance and policy committee meeting to allow further research and explanation into the changes.

If eventually approved the procurement process for a new integrated model would then begin next year.