Paramedics have been called to the same street every day for the past two weeks to treat “Spice” users.
Figures released by North West Ambulance Service reveal that over a 14-day period, ambulances were called to five incidents of people convulsing or fitting and four overdoses in Arcade Street, one requiring the most urgent response reserved for cardiac arrests.
All of the incidents required a response from a vehicle using sirens and lights, including two “psychiatric” incidents which encompasses suicide attempts.
The increasing pressure on NHS services is now being stretched further by the synthetic drug which has hit the streets and homelessness charity The Brick said that it is now helping up to 400 people a month.
This week Leigh MP, Andy Burnham, told our sister paper the Leigh Observer of his plans to tackle the problem should he be elected Mayor of Greater Manchester next month. He blamed part of the problem on rising levels of “inequality and cuts to crucial services” that vulnerable people depend on, citing that Greater Manchester Police is “struggling to meet the surge in demand.
“If I am elected in May I will begin an immediate drive to reduce rough-sleeping across Greater Manchester,” he said. “With the goal of eliminating it by 2020. I will do this not by throwing money at the problem but by leading a new voluntary fund-raising drive working with businesses, churches and charities.”
The MP has also pledged to donate 15 per cent of his mayoral salary, if voted in, to set up a new homelessness fund.
“The Government are turning a blind eye to another aspect of the Spice story,” said Mr Burnham. “The rapidly rising levels of homelessness across the country. The number has been growing quickly, including in our own borough where last year there was a 41 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough. If you are out on our cold streets at night, it is not surprising that people will seek some sort of substance to dull the pain and lift them out of their grim surroundings.
“The brutal reality is that, such is the insecure nature of modern life, we are all only a few unlucky months away from those doorways ourselves.”
Mr Burnham said that he was “shocked and saddened” to discover that a lot of ex-servicemen and women end up on the streets after not receiving adequate care following their return from overseas service.
Kathleen Pitt, chief executive at The Brick, also raised awareness of the issue: “The use of Spice is of growing concern to us at The Brick, as is any drug use, and really highlights the need for more support for people in poverty in Wigan. The Brick provides a safe, solid building block for people in crisis to get them back on their feet; from helping with accommodation and support groups to our food bank, training and helping to increase employment opportunities. If you are worried about someone sleeping on our streets, who appears in need, please get in touch with us so we can help get them the right care and support to rebuild their lives.”
After the Post reported the emerging problem on Saturday, members of the public responded with their own experiences of coming across Spice users in the borough’s streets.
Emma Waterfield said: “I saw two other day spiced off their heads. One sat up asleep and one stood up asleep rocking. Something needs to be done about it.”
Claire Billsborough added: “I just feel so sad for these people. I never remember seeing homeless people around the streets of Wigan and now there seems to be one every 100 yards. Walked past a guy the other day who had like five pasties at the side of him. I honestly don’t think they’re interested in food to be honest. Just money for drugs. I feel like I want to give them money but know what it’s going to get spent on. How can we help people when they’re just going to blow any money they have on this?”
One Facebook user posted a photograph of a suspected Spice user passed out on a bench in Scholes, where apparently there is also a large presence of people semi-unconscious from the drug.
Mayoral election candidates: Andy Burnham (Lab), Sean Anstee (Cons), Jane Brophy (Lib Dems), Will Patterson (Green), Shneur Odze (Ukip), Stephen Morris (Eng Dem), Mohammad Aslam (Ind) and Marcus Farmer (Ind).