Drug and alcohol users in Luton miss out on face-to-face support due to coronavirus, meeting hears

Drug and alcohol dependents in Luton have missed out on support services due to the coronavirus pandemic, a meeting heard.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 2:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 3:23 pm

The pandemic has meant fewer face-to-face meetings to assess these problems, along with mental health issues.

Deputy chief executive Laura Church explained the situation to the local authority's scrutiny crime and disorder committee.

"We've seen an increased demand for mental health services during this period," she said.

Drug and alcohol users could have missed out on vital services

The ResoLUTiONs service in Luton covers all aspects of alcohol and drug-related activities, including:

> Needle exchange;

> Harm reduction;

> Targeted prevention;

> Early interventions;

> Treatment including detoxification and residential rehabilitation;

> Measures to reduce drug and alcohol-related deaths.

"ResoLUTiONs has a particular focus on those at higher risk of harming themselves, causing harm to their family or friends or harm to the wider community," stated a council report.

"It also includes those who are vulnerable to serious harm from others."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "Much of the drug and alcohol service is being delivered by telephone because of Covid regulations.

"We're going to pay dearly in the future for not being able to deliver this in the traditional way.

"A large proportion of domestic burglaries and thefts of vehicles cause distress to innocent families, while a huge amount of this is entirely to finance drug addictions.

"Inevitably, when the service is less effective, these crimes for this purpose are likely to increase. This isn't intended as a criticism of the drug and alcohol team.

"With the information we've been given, it's remarkable they've achieved as much as they have given the difficulties under which they're having to work.

"There's a price we're going to have to pay for that," he warned.

Ms Church, who also serves as corporate director for population well-being, added: "There are three key strategic aims of the community safety partnership (CSP), including ensuring everyone has access to support services and working towards lasting behaviour change.

"Our health scrutiny review group has just looked at the rethinking of in-patient mental health services.

"The health and wellbeing board will be looking at the mental health needs assessment at its April meeting.

"One of the focuses for this area of activity of the CSP has been on refreshing the drug and alcohol partnership by strengthening collaborative work across health, with the police and the services we commission."

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn asked whether how easy it is to access mental health support, saying: "Elsewhere in the country, accessing this has been extremely long-winded, too short lived and it hasn't worked very well."

She replied: "There has been a huge extra demand for mental health services which has been recognised nationally.

"There's a challenge and we've seen a peak in demand, but that's why there's a real focus in providing some of the services identified in the report."