NEATH Port Talbot Council has agreed to create 100 new placements for a scheme which helps people recover from addiction to opiates (heroin).
The Council’s cabinet backed a proposal to increase the number of people that have access to opiate substitute therapy (OST) and also Swansea.
OST is a method used to help people who are addicted to opiates such as heroin by substituting the drug they are dependent on with another such as methadone.
The treatment is delivered by GPs and patients are also given access to support workers, nurses and doctors.
Swansea had the highest rate of drug-related deaths per 100,000 people in Wales, according to data from 2017 to 2019 while Neath Port Talbot (NPT) had the third-highest rate.
Both boroughs also had the highest rates of drug-related deaths in the UK between 2016 and 2018, after Blackpool.
An extra 100 placements for OST will be made for people who are stable but continue to require long-term treatment in Swansea and NPT.
The current supply of OST services in the area is “not meeting the level of need among residents”, according to a report by Christoper Millis, NPT head of participation.
Increasing the capacity of OST services in the area will reduce the risk of drug-related overdoses and coordinate the delivery of low threshold prescribing in the region, the report also states.
The increase in provision will cost £55,000 per annum, plus a one-off set up costs of £2,500. This will be funded through the Welsh Government’s Substance Misuse Action Fund.
The extra spaces will be delivered by increasing the hours of a part-time worker.
While receiving OTS, individuals can also work to overcome or resolve the underlying issues that led to their addiction and try to understand the problems it can create in relation to housing, relationships, and crime.
In Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, the service is currently provided by the primary substance abuse liaison team for the Western Bay Area Planning Board (WBAPB), a partnership between agencies in Swansea, NPT and Bridgend.
The WBAPB had already agreed to the increase in funding but needed NPT Council’s permission to enter into an agreement with Amman Tawe Valley Medical Practice to extend the service.
An assessment by contract monitoring officer Erica Barrett states the increase in investment will help individuals “maintain their recovery from addiction”.
“By being able to maintain individuals on opiate substitute therapy, we are enabling them to live a life free from the use of illegal substances, thereby reducing their potential to be perpetrators or victims of crime,” the report reads.
“Helping individuals to overcome their addiction to illegal substances also increases their ability to become economically active and enter into, or remain in, employment, education or training, thereby enabling individuals to work towards achieving their potential.
“Individuals who are addicted to illegal substances are often socially excluded. By helping them to overcome this addiction, we will be enabling them to work towards becoming more active and valued members of their communities.”
In Wales the rate of drug deaths increased by 84% between 2008 and 2018, increasing from 39 deaths per one million population to 72 deaths. By 2018, the rate was more than double that in London.
In January 2021, the Welsh Government announced it would invest £1 million in an anti-drug crime project in the Swansea Bay region.
The project consists of targeted and tougher policing and enhanced treatment and recovery services.