Middlesbrough launches heroin-assisted treatment programme

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A pilot heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) programme is being launched in Middlesbrough, the local police and crime commissioner (PCC) has announced. The programme will concentrate on up to 15 of the most ‘at risk’ people with entrenched drug problems. 

Participants will visit a clinic twice a day where diamorphine will be administered under supervision. The aim is that with ‘the need to constantly fund street heroin removed’, clients will then be able to engage with health, housing, welfare and other agencies at the clinic and ‘get their lives back on track’. 

The programme will be available to people for whom all other treatment options have failed and who are ‘causing most concern’ to criminal justice, social care and health services. It has been organised and partially funded by Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger, with further funding from Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company and the Tees and Wear Prisons Group. 

The scheme is designed in part to ‘free up the substantial public resources’ being used to address drug issues, the PCC’s office states, as well as promote long-term recovery and reduce rates of drug-related deaths and acquisitive crime. Middlesbrough’s 20 most prolific drug-dependent offenders alone are estimated to have cost the public purse almost £800,000 over two years, ‘based only on crime detected’. The pilot will be independently evaluated with the aim of extending it for a second year with funding from the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). 

clinical team lead Daniel Ahmed
Clinical Team Lead Daniel Ahmed

‘This treatment and recovery pilot is aimed at those for whom all other current methods have failed,’ said the project’s clinical team lead Daniel Ahmed.

‘They are on a cycle of offending, committing crime to raise funds for street heroin, being arrested and going to prison, being released and offending again. The cycle often only ends when they die, often in the street. Before joining the pilot, each of the cohort is medically assessed and the appropriate course of diamorphine is prescribed and administered under supervision daily at a specialist clinic. This removes the constant need to commit crime in order to fund street heroin addiction.’ 

‘The policies of the past have failed,’ added PCC Barry Coppinger. ‘If we are serious about tackling and preventing addiction we need to listen to the experts, take notice of the evidence and act decisively. By removing street heroin from the equation you remove the need to commit crime to fund addiction and the impact this has on local residents and businesses, you remove the health risks of street heroin and the associated drugs litter and you remove the drain on public services including health and police. In addition you halt the flow of funding to drugs gangs.’ 

Meanwhile, North Wales police will no longer automatically prosecute people caught in possession of drugs, including class A substances, according to the area’s PCC, Arfon Jones. The scheme will see people arrested undergo a needs assessment with the option of then signing a 12-month contract agreeing to undertake drug treatment. ‘If after those 12 months they haven’t reoffended then they will not get prosecuted and so will not have a criminal record’, Arfon Jones told the Guardian, adding that there was already ‘de facto decriminalisation’ of drugs by most British police forces. 

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