MONEY has been given to fund a new project to help hard-to-reach substance users at high risk.
Portsmouth City Council has commissioned the project to reduce drug use and related deaths in the city.
It comes as Portsmouth is in the top 10 for drug-related deaths in England with 9.3 per 1,000 deaths.
As part of the scheme, a harm reduction worker employed by the Society of St James will be appointed, as it is the commissioned provider of substance misuse and homelessness services in the city.
And the project will fund low threshold prescribing of methadone.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for public health and social care at the council, welcomed the scheme.
He said: ‘This project is good news for the city. We have one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths across the country with many of these people being younger than 40.
‘Research shows that for every £1 invested in treatment for drug addiction, there is a £2.50 benefit to society.
‘People might think this activity should fall to the NHS but it’s outside of their remit so if the council didn’t fund methadone it wouldn’t be available.
‘There’s strong evidence that it can help people off drugs when used alongside other support.
‘We would call on partners like the NHS and police though to support us in our aim of reducing drug use and drug-related deaths.’
The harm reduction worker, which the council hopes will be in place by January, will work alongside the needle exchange to provide outreach to active drug users who are not engaged with treatment services. Many of these will be homeless or older long-term users.
The worker will look to move clients into more mainstream services once they have engaged them through this project, which it is hoped will also reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and hospital admissions.
Substance users who have not been in contact with treatment services in the last two years make up half of drug-related deaths.
Councillor Paul Godier, homeless champion at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Approximately half of those who are expected to benefit from this project will be homeless people.
‘We know tackling their substance issues is the first step to them being able to change their situation.’