Sunderland drug treatment services ‘in crisis’

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SERIOUS failings in the treatment of drug abuse in Sunderland have been revealed in an independent report.

The document describes the treatment of most vulnerable clients as “in crisis” and shows a backlog of cases waiting for treatment, linked to staff shortages.

Sunderland City Council said it was working with three bodies delivering treatment to ensure they improve.

The authority reorganised drug and alcohol treatment services in 2013, partly to reduce costs.

Services are now commissioned by the council but delivered by outside providers, including the charity Turning Point which assesses cases and refers people to other organisations for treatment.

A review commissioned last year found the council was missing its targets on the numbers completing drug treatment successfully.

The information was made public after the report was handed to the BBC.

Cath Wareing, from Washington, whose son David Pace died of a heroin overdose last year, has claimed he would still be alive if he had been given the treatment he needed.

“I genuinely believe the system has failed my son,” she said. “He was very, very scared. He knew he needed help.”

Cath said she was offered support by the crisis team – but it wasn’t her who needed help.

John Kelly, the senior councillor responsible for public health in Sunderland, said he recognised “some elements of the drug and alcohol treatment services are under performing”.

He said the authority was working to address these issues, despite severe financial constraints, and was now looking at a “revised model of treatment which will be considered by the city council in the near future”, he said.

Turning Point said “vast improvements have been made to the service since this report was written last year, including the reduction of waiting times to no more than five days”.

Council Conservative opposition leader Lee Martin said when it came to commissioned services, the council should “focus relentlessly on contract monitoring and on the outcomes that are delivered”.