HAT participant James*
Participants on Middlesbrough’s groundbreaking new drug treatment have called the scheme “life changing” as early findings show their offending has reduced significantly since its launch.
42-year-old James* is one of 11 participants currently on the town’s Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) programme and has been struggling with heroin addiction for the last 20 years, after getting hooked in prison.
Prior to the scheme, he would shoplift at least £80 worth of goods daily from local stores in Middlesbrough to fund his habit.
As he enters his 15th week of the scheme, James said: “I’ve been in treatment since 1999 and I’ve never gone without heroin in all that time. I’ve spent a lot of time in jail, but I used in there as well.
“I want to be totally abstinent of everything and then help other people do it. I’ve been through it and I know what the problems are.
“This scheme might not work for everyone but it’s worked for me and it’s worked for the other people that I’m on the programme with. There’s not many of us on it and we’ve been given the chance of a lifetime and you can see the difference in everyone.”
HAT was launched in Middlesbrough in October 2019 and supports those with entrenched heroin dependency for whom all traditional drug treatment methods have failed.
The scheme aimed to reduce crime, decrease the financial strain on public services, cut off funding to criminal gangs and tackle the region’s high levels of drug-related death – some of the highest in the country.
Twice a day, the participants attend a specialist facility for a dose of medical grade diamorphine, which they inject themselves under the supervision of trained staff, before accessing a range of support services.
Committing in excess of 900 crimes, the offending behaviour of the current 11 participants has cost the tax payer a total of £3.7m. Only one participant to date has re-offended since entering treatment – they received a custodial sentence and are no longer taking part in the programme.
The group is increasingly testing negative for street heroin use and the attendance rate for the twice-daily treatment stands at 99 per cent.
Clinical lead Danny Ahmed said: “Evidence from countries like Canada and Switzerland told us that Heroin Assisted Treatment could work here in Middlesbrough, but I continue to be impressed with overwhelming change in our participants in such a short time frame.
“The majority of these individuals have battled addiction for decades and they are finally able to lift their head out of the daily struggle of sourcing their next hit and look forward to living life.”
The pilot was initially funded for 12 months by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Foundations Medical Practice, Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company, Tees and Wear Prisons Group and South Tees Public Health.
PCC Barry Coppinger plans to use money seized from criminal gangs to further drug treatment services across Cleveland: “Early findings from the HAT project shows that there IS a chance for those in the depths of addiction to see light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m encouraged that our approach has been recognised nationally by the Health and Social Care Select Committee and other teams from across the UK have contacted my Office as they look to develop similar treatments in their own area.
“I’d love to see the scheme rolled out to the other boroughs in Cleveland and some discussions have already taken place.
“It’s my intention to use funding seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act to go back into our communities, to repair the harm that the illegal drug trade has wrought not only to those on the programme, but to our entire society."
*Not real name
Read more about the participants' stories here.
Posted on Monday 24th February 2020