SPENDING on drug and alcohol treatment to help vulnerable people in Wiltshire has been halved from five years ago, new figures reveal.

Freedom of Information figures, requested by UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT), reveal that budgets for drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services in Wiltshire have fallen £2.6m since 2013.

Wiltshire Council confirmed that its budget for 2018/19 has dropped to £2.7m, down from £5.383m in 2013/14.

That is 16 per cent of the Public Health Grant the authority received for 2018/19: five years ago 40 per cent of this allocation went on treating those with drug and alcohol problems.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics also show that the number of deaths as a direct result of drug misuse across Wiltshire has risen 109 per cent since 2012/14 from 22 to 46 deaths last year.

Eytan Alexander, founder of addiction treatment firm UKAT, said: “It’s difficult for Wiltshire Council to deny the link between the drop in budget allocation for drug and alcohol treatment services and the rise in drug related deaths, and we hope for better spending decisions next year in order to help those most vulnerable in society.

“Addiction is a debilitating psychiatric disorder. What those suffering with addiction need are far better availability and access to Government funded rehabilitation and detoxification centres with earlier interventions, not a slash in budget allocation because ultimately, when people engage in treatment, the whole community benefits.”

Last year, the government’s own drugs strategy read: “Investing in treatment services to reduce drug misuse and dependency will not only help to save lives but will also substantially reduce the economic and social costs of drug-related harm.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “We have worked closely with partners to provide more personalised, targeted programmes which are having a significant positive impact in reducing the number of drug and alcohol related deaths. In 2016-17 there were 13 drug and alcohol related deaths and in 2017-18 there were 19 – a major reduction in the figures reported by UKAT.

“Although the number of deaths has drastically reduced, one death is still one too many and we continue to work hard with partners to provide the right support to help people make positive choices and recovery.

“The reduction in deaths is due to a number of factors including successful working in particular with opiate clients. Our commissioned service Turning Point have offered every client the lifesaving drug naloxone which can be safely administered to anyone who overdoses on opiates. This is now being rolled out to partner agencies.

“In addition they have also developed an engaging programme of activity with all clients. These has seen Wiltshire rise to the top quartile of opiate completions which means that the county is among the best few local authorities in the country for opiate recovery rates and has been for the last 18 months.

“The total budget for alcohol and treatment services for 2018/19 is 3.696million. This is a partnership budget consisting of funding from Wiltshire Council’s Public Health Grant and adult & children social care funding and the Police & Crime Commissioner.

“We have worked closely with key agencies to encourage innovative approaches to recovery which has increased the number of people successfully recovering from their substance misuse issues. Recently we have commissioned Turning Point to launch ‘IMPACT’ (Improving Prevention, Accessibility, Collaboration & Treatment) in partnership with Swindon Borough Council to make services more accessible including:

• Better use of digital technology through on-line support and information and telemedicine.

• Delivering services from a range of discreet and convenient community locations

• Working jointly with other local organisations to reach out to groups that can often be under-represented in treatment services, such as women.

“The service is more personalised, responding to changing drug and alcohol trends and aims to further improve recovery rates across both Wiltshire and Swindon local authority areas.

“We have also recently opened Rothermere, a pioneering centre for residents who are in treatment for, or recovering from, substance misuse. This integrated unit allows client access to the help they need in one place, including advice on health and finding work. The residential flat features five single bedrooms, with a shared kitchen and bathroom.

“The collaboration with Swindon in commissioning the new IMPACT service has enabled Turning Point to reduce back office costs while the introduction of Rothermere has enabled significant capital savings, both enabling us to maintain front line treatment provision.

“The Wiltshire substance misuse service is currently one of the best in the country for helping people to become drug free. We have delivered efficiencies using new approaches which have improved outcomes for those in need.”