Agenda item

Combating Drugs and Alcohol Update Quarter 4 2023/24


The Committee received a report of the Director of Public Health that provided an update on the Dame Carol Black substance misuse grant funding awarded to Durham County Council (DCC).  This funding was being used to support the implementation of the new national drugs strategy.  The report highlighted the outcomes of the Drugs and Alcohol Recovery Service for 2022/23 (for copy see file of minutes).


J Sunter, PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) provided a further update on the work of the service following on from information given by the Director of Public Health at a previous committee meeting.  She explained that the County Durham Joint Local Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JLHWS) outlined the vision for improving health and wellbeing and tackling inequalities across the county.  Following a two-phase review by Dame Carol Black in 2021/22 the government had developed a new 10 year strategy in 2021 - ‘From harm to hope: A 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives’ that had three key priorities i) to break the drugs supply chain; ii) deliver world-class treatment and recovery systems; and iii) achieve the shift in demand for recreational drugs.  The council had been successful in securing grant funding from the government to finance substance misuse treatment and recovery, in patient detox, rough sleepers treatment and recovery, individual placement support and housing support.  Workstreams had been established to ensure the funding was directed to the relevant areas that required it the most.


There was a new Combating Drug and Alcohol Partnership working across Durham and Darlington that was supported by the police, NHS, probation, social care and the voluntary sector to deliver a plan for action. Deaths from substance misuse in Durham were low in the north east but higher than England.  Funding had helped to increase the use of Naloxone within communities to help prevent deaths. The Connect service worked with people coming out of prison to help with their substance misuse and accommodation needs.  The service kept track of them whilst they still resided in Durham.  The successful completion numbers were now sent to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) instead of Public Health England monthly to help achieve goals. There was an uplift from the drug and alcohol service with 3,000 people from June 2022 to July 2023.  The unmet need was still being monitored.


Councillor J Miller noted that there was reference made to County Durham through out the report and asked if there were any specific areas that were more problematic than others. The report mentioned that work was being carried out with the Housing Solutions regarding accommodation.  He felt that location was key in success rates for any accommodation provision as if they were not situated in the right place it would be pointless.  He queried if all eventualities were taken into consideration when developing homeless accommodation.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) responded that there was a correlation with active areas of substance misuse and areas of deprivation.  The Council worked closely with private landlords and Housing Solutions on where to purchase properties. The Dame Carol Black grant helped to fund wrap around services to work with rough sleepers and others to help them to keep tenancies. The health squad had been funded to work with organisations that provided supported accommodation but the local authority had less jurisdiction over some of the private flats.  Housing Solutions tried to engage with all housing providers to offer advice and support with the health squad knocking on resident’s doors to work with people who needed help or who had just come of prison.


Councillor E Mavin was worried about potentially people being at work who were under the influence of substance misuse/alcohol whether intentionally or still being under the influence from the night before.  He queried if there was anything being done to combat this.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) responded to Councillor E Mavin that this was difficult to combat but the police ran safety campaigns about not driving and taking drugs as potentially people may not realise they could still be under the influence the next day.  The police carry out drug tests in custody suites that could identify people who may need support. Testing could help young people who could be helped into understanding if they were being experimental with substances or if they were addicted and then could be referred into treatment.


Councillor E Mavin asked how many veterans the service worked with.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) replied that she was unaware of a specific number but Human Kind did work with a number of veterans who were peer supporters.  Those veterans in the programme also helped to reach out to others that may need help.


Councillor D Nicholls felt that within society no one wanted to talk about alcohol issues and the impact it caused as people normalised a glass of wine a night.  He queried how addiction was measured and how it was decided that a person may be dependant and how people were found to offer help to.  He thought that alcohol was too easily available in England with late licences but the rules were different in Scotland.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) commented that the north east had the highest levels of alcohol abuse with admissions to hospital.  Mortality rates were also high in the north east although County Durham was below the average level.  There was an increasing trend for under 18s to not drink.  Within the Health and Wellbeing programme there was a drive on alcohol misuse with campaigns that showed the harm that alcohol caused and how it had an impact on children and young people starting to drink early. Work was commissioned with Balance to lobby central government and work on the harms and impact of alcohol on children and young people. 


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW)  stated that six local authorities within north east region were running campaigns with narrative on Adshel bus shelters, through Area Action Partnerships, through community and voluntary sectors and through the drug and alcohol recovery service. GP’s used  Audit  C which was an assessment tool to identify people who may be  addicts. Humankind also featured the tool on their website so people could refer themselves onto a fast track into the service for detox.  There was a focus on positive energy and messages given to show the harm that excess alcohol and substance abuse did.


Councillor J Charlton was pleased to hear an outreach worker post had been established to work with young people. She queried if there was data on children and young people especially those with SEND.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) replied that there was no data on outreach support to children and young people directly but data did come through the youth justice service on children and young people on the verge of crime.  She agreed to provide a more formal response.


Councillor J Charlton asked what areas had been identified that were known had problems. If Councillors were aware that issues were in their locality they could reach out to the voluntary sector or through their AAPs to try to do something.  She worried when people were released from prison they had no GP to go to for help if they needed it.  She asked how successful the work was carried out in prisons to detox people before they were released.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) stated that the Dame Carol Black fund had helped to finance the Reconnect hub at Durham Prison and the in reach worker that worked with inmates before they were released from prison.  She commented that it was a great facility that had an open-door policy and was a one stop shop for people to get help and support as and when they needed.


Councillor P Atkinson thanked the officer for an informative presentation.  He commented that in his division of Ferryhill he had seen a lot of supported accommodation and queried if Durham monitored the progress of people in these facilities. He acknowledged there was a range of people who had issues and not just ex-prisoners and queried if they were connected up to support groups or the police.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) stated that housing solutions liaised with housing providers with inreach workers within supported accommodation to establish who were in the units and what issues they had in order to provide support.  She noted that the local authority had no jurisdiction over these facilities and although the team knocked on doors they did not have to let them in.    Support workers were trained to ensure they had the knowledge to support everyone.  It was difficult to get these facilities in certain areas as residents complained stating they did not want them next to their homes.

Councillor P Heaviside asked that the data in the report related to outcomes from June 2023 and queried why there was a delay in providing up to date data.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) advised that data received did not just include drug and alcohol but also substance misuse.  She stated that success criteria was measured by someone being substance free for six months hence data collected would always be six months behind. Data gathering was continually ongoing.


Councillor D Sutton-Lloyd commented that work had been successful in his division of Newton Aycliffe as mini groups had been established that met on a four weekly basis with police, councillors and local residents to address local issues and tried to integrate the Council’s services. 


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) advised she sat on both the boards for the ASB strategy and the Reduce Reoffending and she could help members if they wanted representation at their meetings to try resolve issues.  The Dame Carol Black funding enabled the expansion of its capacity.


Councillor L Fenwick asked where she could signpost people for information on drug and alcohol services in County Durham.


The PH Strategic Manager (L,AW) informed the committee that all the information was on the County Durham drug and alcohol recovery service website.  She agreed to circulate the details to committee members for information.


Councillor P Heaviside requested that the presentation on supported housing should be circulated to committee members.




i)               That the report be noted.


ii)           That the work of the Combatting Drugs and Alcohol  

               Partnership and the implementation of the Dame Carol Black  

               funded workstreams be continuously supported.


iii)             That the positive outcomes of the DARS and affiliated partners to encourage more people to access the service and reduce the harms from drugs and alcohol part of everyone’s business be promoted.

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