BARNSLEY has been found to be one of the worst-hit places in the country for cuts to spending on drug and alcohol treatment - despite drug deaths being up by 60 per cent.
In the last six years, council spending on public drug and alcohol treatment has decreased from £5.2m in 2013 to £2.8m this year - a 46 per cent reduction - according to data released by UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT), gathered through a series of Freedom of Information requests made to local councils.
This makes Barnsley’s spending on treating problems the worst-hit by cuts in Yorkshire, with the second largest cuts made by Doncaster Council.
Drug-related deaths in the borough have also increased by 60 per cent across the same period, according to the damning findings.Coun Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesperson for communities, said the changes to council spending on drug and alcohol services were due to ‘streamlining’ which began two years ago.
“The substance misuse treatment services in Barnsley were re-modelled and re-tendered in 2016-17 and streamlined into one integrated service - Barnsley Recovery Steps - which began on April 1, 2017,” she added.
“The service has continued to be delivered in line with the service specification and contractual requirements.
“We believe the unusually high number of drug-related deaths was related to the issue of heroin being contaminated by fentanyl across Yorkshire and the Humber in 2017. We worked closely with our partners and South Yorkshire Police to address the issue at the time.”
Fentanyl - a substance claimed to be 100 times more lethal than heroin - was said to be responsible for the deaths of seven people in the town in 2017, leading Operation Armenia to be launched to combat drug dealing across Barnsley, with a particular focus on the lethal strain.
Eytan Alexander, managing director of UKAT, said: “If less money is being spent by local councils on placing those most vulnerable into treatment, then we will undoubtedly see even more public rehabs having been forced to close their doors by this time next year.
“Not everyone can afford to pay for their addiction treatment, but everyone deserves to be treated and to be given a second chance at life. But at this rate, where will addicts living here go to get help?
“It is not a coincidence that as councils spend less on substance misuse treatment services, public rehabs close down and more and more people die.
“It feels like councils here have lost all humanity and we urge them to make better budget decisions next year."