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Call for more cash to tackle drug abuse

PUBLISHED: 15:51 27 May 2004 | UPDATED: 04:54 02 March 2010

DRUG rehabilitation chiefs have called for more money to treat users fighting substance addiction in Suffolk and claimed crime would fall as a result.

The link between drug addiction and crime is long established and the people who help treat addicts in the county have said that not enough cash is invested in rehabilitation.

DRUG rehabilitation chiefs have called for more money to treat users fighting substance addiction in Suffolk and claimed crime would fall as a result.

The link between drug addiction and crime is long established and the people who help treat addicts in the county have said that not enough cash is invested in rehabilitation.

Instead, drug users who commit crime to fund their habits are simply thrown in prison, where they receive little or no support to help them break the chain of abuse and re-offending.

Chip Somers, project manager at Focus, a Bury St Edmunds-based drug rehabilitation charity, said 80% of crime is drug or alcohol related.

"Not to spend money treating drug and alcohol problems is extremely short sighted," he added.

"Without doubt, I would say that the drug and alcohol problem is way down on the list of priorities - it's not a political issue.

"I would like to see much more money spent on treatment and less on police intervention.

"There is massive evidence that money invested in treatment produces far better results than money invested in the prison system.

"The Government talks a lot about the extra money that they're putting into the drugs issue, but very little of that is filtered down to treatment centres – this year Suffolk got just an extra £11,000.

Mr Somers added: "Our experience is that the way to really bring about change is to give people rehab, treatment and education that actually allows them to address their drink and drug problems.

"At the moment that is not the case. They are locked up for a crime, get no help and go back time and time again.

"If you provide treatment to 100 acquisitive criminals, 15 to 20 of those are going to get out of the system all together and that's got to save money.

"But, if you throw prison at the same 100 criminals, probably 99 of them are going to go back to crime when they get out."

Carey Godfrey is the co-ordinator of the Suffolk Drug Action Team, a consortium of local services including the police, county council, probation service and social care.

He said: "I think what happens at the moment with drugs and crime is that most of the money goes to high crime areas like cities – and a rural county such as Suffolk then does not get as much.

"I don't think the Government have thought enough about rural counties.

"There's a strong link between drugs and crime and research shows that treatment works – however, we must ensure that treatment is available to all who seek help in Suffolk.

"We welcome new developments but need more resources and funding in rural areas."

The calls for more money come as a new report claimed that addicts in Suffolk are forced to wait almost a week longer than the national average for residential treatment.

Released by watchdog Rethinking Crime & Punishment, the report also claimed that every £1 invested in drug treatment saves £3 in criminal justice costs.

Mr Godfrey said: "I accept that we do need more treatment, but that relies on us getting the finance from Government.

"Suffolk does not have a residential drug treatment service – these are very expensive resources. We've tried to set up more community support schemes so people don't need to go out of the county.

"Waiting times are just above the average and we are working to reduce this period. The biggest problem is having enough money to fund these placements.

"We now have a lot more resources in Suffolk to tackle drugs and crime and an awful lot of work has been done."

What do you think should be done to help drug users? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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