Worrying figures reveal Portsmouth has one of the UK's highest drug death rates

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DRUG services need to be revamped to save lives. 

That is the message after figures revealed Portsmouth has one of the highest drug-related death rates in England.

15/3/19    ''STORY: Hilary Mills' son Ben died of drugs (went into cardiac arrest week before Mutiny last year)  and he was a recovering addict.''Pictured:   Hilary Mills with a picture of her son, Ben Mills''Picture: Habibur Rahman

15/3/19 ''STORY: Hilary Mills' son Ben died of drugs (went into cardiac arrest week before Mutiny last year) and he was a recovering addict.''Pictured: Hilary Mills with a picture of her son, Ben Mills''Picture: Habibur Rahman

The city had 87 deaths between 2016 and 2018, at a rate of 14.9 per 100,000 people – the national average was 6.7.

Healthwatch Portsmouth chairman Roger Batterbury said: ‘It is extremely concerning that we are bucking the national trend by over double and these are people’s lives we are talking about.

‘I think the services in the city need a big rethink to bring these figures down and there needs to be a joint approach from mental health and substance abuse services as well as Public Health and support groups.’

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson told The News a new education strategy is needed to help people understand the consequences.

He said: ‘We have been using the same method for over 60 years and it maybe does not work as well as it should so I think there needs to be a new strategy there.

‘These figures are very concerning and I know the police are also working very hard to make Portsmouth an unwelcome place for drug dealers from London to stop them selling in our city.’

Janine Milburn’s eighteen-year-old daughter Georgia Jones died at Mutiny Festival in 2018 due to a drug overdose and started a drug awareness campaign for youngsters.

She said: ‘Everyone needs to play a part in this if we want to change our statistics.

‘We need education to give kids the confidence to say no, the police, the government and the local councils to work together to sort out this horrible mess so that we could prevent some of the deaths that happen because of drugs.’

Of the 87 deaths in the city, 53 were down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.

In the intensive care unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital at the same time as Georgia was Hilary Mills’ son Ben, 27, who had suffered with a drug addiction for the last 10 years.

The mother-of-four from Cowplain said: ‘We need more money in the rehab services that help those with drug addictions because I think it is an illness and not necessarily a lifestyle choice.

‘People get dragged in by just trying it once with friends and then it changes you and you can’t get out on your own even if you want to.’

Agreeing with Janine, Hilary added: ‘Education is so key and I hope with us sharing our stories with the younger generation that they see the harm caused by drugs and make the right choice.’

Gosport was also at the top of the list with one of the highest drug death rates in England with 33 deaths between 2016 and 2018, at a rate of 13.6 per 100,000 people.

Drug-related deaths in Havant have risen over the last few years with 35 deaths between 2016 and 2018 and in Fareham there were 13 deaths in the same time period.