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Council hits back as data shows drugs rehab 'cuts'

Professor Kate Ardern
Professor Kate Ardern

Town hall chiefs have slammed claims they have cut spending on crucial treatment for drug addicts by 14 per cent.

Experts have warned that Government cuts to the Public Health England grant for Wigan Council are threatening the lives of drug and alcohol users across the borough.

Figures acquired by an addiction treating firm, UKAT in a Freedom of Information Request “revealed” the council spent £255,474 of their grant upon rehab services four years ago but, for this financial year has been cut to £220,800, representing a cut to services of £34,674.

The FOI reveals how much Wigan Council spent on “residential detoxification” treatment (commonly known as rehab) since the ring-fenced drug and alcohol treatment budget was removed in 2012 and replaced with the Public Health Grant.

However, the council has refuted these claims, saying that the 2013/14 results only show an agreement with one specific detox provider called Chapman Barker.

The agreement was in place until September 2013, at which point under the new health structure, a new contract was negotiated based on local need, which has reportedly been at the consistent figure of £220,800 since April 2014.

Health chiefs also claim that the report does not acknowledge the rise of community detox in the borough, which opens opportunities for individuals who prefer not to go into rehab.

Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “We are committed to working with residents to aid their recovery and detox in a way that is most suited to them.

Despite a time of significant financial pressure, we have maintained our existing inpatient detox options and have been innovative in creating and funding alternative detox options.

“The 2013/14 figure reflects a risk share agreement as part of a collaborative Greater Manchester contract but under the new health structure, we negotiated our own contract in 2014 based on local need and the agreed figure of £220,800 from Public Health England has remained unchanged since then.

“We also work jointly with Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver effective services and have been pro-active in supporting local recovery community groups through our Deal for Communities Investment Fund.”

Following the FOI, the founder of UKAT, spoke out saying that no one deserves to go “cold turkey” from drugs or alcohol.

Eytan Alexander said: ““The dangers of this must surely outweigh the desire to save money. Recovery is a journey—there are no shortcuts.”

Sudden withdrawal from drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates can be dangerous, leading to potentially fatal seizures.

For long-term alcoholics, going “cold turkey” can cause life-threatening delirium tremens.