40 per cent rise in drugs deaths in the borough

Drug deaths have risen
Drug deaths have risen

The number of people in Wigan borough who have died from drug abuse has rocketed by 40 per cent in two years.

Latest Office for National Statistics figures show that there were 38 deaths due to substance misuse between 2012 and 2014 but this shot up to 64 in 2015-17.

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The shocking increases are in line with national trends and the figures are not the worst regionally or nationally.

But the UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT) service was quick to point out that Wigan Council is spending the least it has ever done on free community drug and alcohol treatment services as deaths increase.

The detailed analysis by UKAT shows that in 2013-14, £4m was spent on the treating those with drug and alcohol problems in the local community by way of free, accessible treatment services which offer walk-in information, advice and group sessions.

Under Freedom of Information Act inquiries, the council has confirmed that as of April 1, 2018, budget allocation for tier 3 community substance misuse services for 2018-19 has reduced to £3.5m.

UKAT founder Eytan Alexander said: “These cuts are killing people and spending less on community drug and alcohol treatment services when drug deaths in the same areas are rising and rising is no coincidence.

“When people are able to engage in treatment, the whole community benefits.

“The Government removing the ring-fenced drug and alcohol treatment budget was a catalyst for disaster, and we hope that the council makes better spending decisions next year so that fewer lives will not be unnecessarily lost.”

But Coun Keith Cunliffe, Wigan Council’s deputy leader, said: “Drug related deaths are not just specific to Wigan borough, they have shown a national increase and are extremely complex by nature.

“In the borough we have an ageing population of injecting drug users, which increases the likelihood of individuals dying as a result of a combination of their age and their long-term drug taking lifestyle. They also have significantly poorer health outcomes as a result. The charity Addaction, run a number of services nationally as well as in Wigan borough.

“We have seen unprecedented budget cuts to local authorities as well as reductions nationally for drug and alcohol services. However, we are confident that our service is delivering effective, evidence-based interventions in our communities.”

Siobhan Peters, services manager at Wigan and Leigh Addaction, said: “We have a range of evidence based interventions that support residents to reduce risk and stay safe, for example we are currently rolling out Naloxone provision in the borough to further support people to be safe and potentially save lives.”