Posted: 26.06.19 at 11:22 by Joseph Bulmer
The number of people in East Devon dying from drug and alcohol misuse is rising following a £1.7m county-wide cut in council spending for treatment.
Deaths from drug poisoning in the region have risen by 44% and deaths from alcohol related issues are up by 18% since nationwide changes were introduced to the way councils budget for treatment services.
Since 2013-14, the substance misuse budget for the whole of Devon has been reduced by £1,751,001 (29%) according to data obtained by addiction treatment firm UKAT (www.ukat.co.uk).
Said Eytan Alexander, Managing Director of UKAT, who received the funding data in a freedom of information request: “Up until 2012, councils across England had a ringfenced budget to spend on substance misuse services in their local area.
“The Government removed this protection in 2012 allowing each council to spend what they believed was the required amount of money going forward, and this was the catalyst for disaster.
"The number of people dying from drug and alcohol misuse across Devon is extremely worrying, because in the main, it's an upwards trend, when at the same time, Devon County Council is choosing to spend a staggering £1.7 million less on helping those most vulnerable in their community.
“Ultimately this means that if the council continues in this way, even more people will lose their life to drugs and alcohol because of a lack of treatment services available to help them.
"We urge Devon County Council to look at the numbers, acknowledge there's a problem and to show some humanity; addicts are humans and deserve a second chance at life, but they won't get that if budgets to substance misuse treatment services continue to be dramatically slashed."
Deaths in East Devon specifically from drug misuse have risen from 18 in 2012-14 to 26 in 2015-17 (+44%) and alcohol mortality rates are also up, with 67 deaths in 2012 compared to 79 in 2017 (+18%). In Devon, there were 152 drug deaths (+32%) and 391 alcohol-related deaths (+18%) when comparing the same periods.
Devon allocated £5.95m for substance misuse in 2013/14 but this has dropped to £4.20m for 2019/20.
In England and Wales, around half of the 151 councils with responsibility for treatment budgets have reduced spending by £63m in the past six years.
Sources: Office for National Statistics (Drug related deaths by local authority, England & Wales); Public Health England (Local Alcohol Profiles for England); UKAT via FOI.