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Thursday, 07 September 2017

Minsiters warned funding cuts to substance misuse services 'catalyst for disaster'

Written by Hayden Smith

Drug-related crime, deaths and blood-borne viruses could all surge as a result of funding cuts for substance misuse treatment services, government advisers have warned.

In a stark message to ministers, a senior expert described a lack of spending in the area as a "catalyst for disaster".

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs found that maintaining funding of drug treatment services is essential to preventing drug-related death and drug-driven crime in communities.

However, the body concluded that drug and alcohol treatment appears to be facing a disproportionate decrease in resources.

The ACMD said it heard evidence of examples of funding reductions in local areas in England, brought about through variations to existing contracts and re-procurement of local services.

For example, one local authority re-procured its substance misuse services to achieve 32% "cost-efficiencies"' over a five-year contract.

The ACMD's report warns a loss of funding "could lead to decreased treatment penetration and increased levels of blood-borne viruses, drug-related deaths and drug-driven crime in communities".

Reductions in funding are the single biggest threat to drug misuse treatment recovery outcomes being achieved in local areas, the paper says.

Annette Dale-Perera, chair of the ACMD's recovery committee, said: "A lack of spending on drug treatment is short-sighted and a catalyst for disaster.

"England had built a world class drug treatment system, with fast access to free, good quality drug treatment.

"This system is now being dismantled due to reductions in resources.

"Unless government protect funding, the new drug strategy aspiration of 'effectively funded and commissioned (drug treatment) services' will be compromised."

The ACMD made a number of recommendations, including a call for drug and alcohol misuse services to be mandated within local authority budgets and/or the commissioning of drug and alcohol treatment to be placed within NHS commissioning structures.

In July the Government unveiled its drugs strategy, which aims to reduce illicit drug use and improve dependence recovery rates.

Figures show drug use in England and Wales has fallen significantly in the last decade.

Roughly one in 12 adults aged 16 to 59 had taken an illicit substance in the last year, according to findings from a 2016/17 survey.

However, drug poisoning deaths are at record levels, with 3,744 deaths involving legal and illegal substances registered last year.

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