‘Significant’ rise in Herts substance misuse deaths coincides with £2.8 million rehab funding cut

Concerns raised over Hertfordshire County Council slashing funding for alcohol and drug addiction tr

Concerns raised over Hertfordshire County Council slashing funding for alcohol and drug addiction treatment services. Picture: Pexels. - Credit: Archant

Funding for drug and alcohol addiction treatment services has been slashed by almost £2.8 million over the last six years, while deaths from substance misuse have risen “significantly” during this period.

Data obtained by addiction treatment firm UKAT reveals Herts County Council has reduced spending on drug and alcohol treatment services from £9,758,291 in 2013/14 to £7,000,345 in 2019/20.

The Office for National Statistics recorded a 10 per cent rise in deaths from drug poisoning in Herts during this period - from 109 between 2012 and 2014 to 120 between 2015 and 2017.

And data from Public Health England shows an eight per cent rise in deaths from alcohol-related illnesses in the county - from 394 in 2013 to 427 in 2017.

Eytan Alexander, managing director of UKAT, said: "Herts County Council has slashed budgets to substance misuse services, when at the same time drug and alcohol-related deaths have risen quite significantly. It's concerning and confusing that as the number of deaths rise, the amount allocated to treating people suffering with drug and alcohol addiction lowers.

"Not everyone can afford to pay for their treatment, which is why public services are so important. Everyone deserves a second chance in life.

"We urge HCC to show a little more humanity and help prevent more vulnerable people dying."

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But the local authority says the increase in deaths is not linked to the cut in funding. A spokesman said: "A series of government reports has concluded that a major cause of drug-related deaths is an ageing opiate user cohort with multiple illnesses and related causes.

"It is false to say the increase in drug-related deaths have been due to commissioning changes by councils. There have been no commissioning changes in Scotland or Wales and they have both seen a sharp increase in deaths, making clear this is a UK-wide trend."

She added: "Hertfordshire continues to be below the national average for deaths from drug misuse and for alcohol-related mortality, and Hertfordshire's outcomes for drug and alcohol treatment remain consistently better than the national rates."

This paper approached rehab centre The Living Room in Stevenage for comment, but the charity declined.