MILLIONS of pounds are being flung at drug and alcohol misuse across the Kingdom but the problem is getting worse, not better.
And it’s against that backcloth that Fife has now plunged into a bitter row over how that money should be spent.
Radical recommendations from the Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) would see local groups starved of funding with national players stepping in to tackle the region’s substance misuse.
But while drug and alcohol problems exist Fife-wide, Levenmouth, statistically, is seen not just as the worst afflicted area in the region, but one of the worst in the entire country.
The Leven-based Drug and Alcohol Project Limited (DAPL) has been praised from all quarters and by all political parties for its work in this field.
Now, with its funding stream recommended to be shut off, the big question now is ‘what next for Levenmouth?
Abandoning those in need of support isn’t an option but a strategy is also needed to stem a growing tide of those being pulled into a destructive cycle – one that just doesn’t affect them and their families, but the community as a whole.
Fife’s hospitals are admitting almost double the average number of drug related admissions in Scotland and, despite the Scottish Parliament’s success in tackling drink-related deaths nationally, alcohol-related casualties just keep on rising in Levenmouth.
Councillor Andrew Rodger is one community leader who will be demanding answers at next week’s meeting of the Levenmouth area committee.
He said: “We need a really in-depth look at this situation. To be one of the worst in Scotland means we are getting something wrong.
“That could be down to a number of factors – lack of housing, unemployment etc., – it’s a vicious cycle.
“In Levenmouth, that cycle is not being broken.”
According to statistics obtained from the Scottish Public Health Observatory 2010, Fife as a whole has a much lower alcohol death rate than Scotland.
However, Levenmouth’s death rate (at 50 people per 100,000) has increased over the last five years to a much higher rate than Fife, or indeed Scotland, which now displays a downward trend.
That’s despite the fact alcohol funding in Fife has increased from around £700,000 a year in 2007 to a current level of £2.5 million.
Again, the figures of patients hospitalised with drug-related conditions in Levenmouth are staggering compared to the rest of the country.
Ten years ago, approximately 90 people in a standard population of 100,000 were admitted, compared to 40 for Fife and 60 for Scotland.
The latest figures reveal Levenmouth’s figure now stands at 170, compared to 80 in Scotland and 90 in Fife.
However, while Fife funding on drugs has doubled over the past six years (from £800,000 to £1.6 million per annum), the number of people accessing treatment for heroin and benzodiazepine addiction- approximately 1300 people – has not changed between 2003 and 2009.
Across Fife, midwives recorded 46 pregnant women had drink or drug problems in 2003. That number has steadily increased, with 100 such pregnancies last year.
Funding wrangle rumbles on
AS drug and alcohol statistics make for grim reading, Fife’s funding bosses are ploughing ahead with a major service overhaul.
In a controversial move, Fife’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership pulled cash from numerous ‘home-grown’ Fife support agencies, including DAPL and LOST.
Instead, the funding is being re-directed to national agencies such as Barnardos.
The affected groups – which claim they were set up to fail in the tendering process – have formed a joint consortium to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, chair of the ADP, George Cunningham, maintained its decision would offer joined-up services “where duplication is reduced and tailored to meet individual needs”.
Cllr Andrew Rodger commented: “There’s no doubt volunteers working in local agencies such as DAPL do a marvellous job to help people but, on the other hand, look at the figures.
“Services who were told they were doing a great job are now being cut. Why is that?”
A final decision will be made on August 25 at Fife Council’s health and social care partnership meeting.
Jobs axed as youth services shut down
THE boss of one of Levenmouth’s longest-standing support agencies has announced its youth services have now stopped.
Robert Grant, manager of Drugs and Alcohol Project Limited, confirmed its street referral project shut down on Sunday.
The scheme, which had run for four years in partnership with Fife Constabulary, saw young people in Levenmouth and North East Fife referred for early family-based intervention.
Funds had run out in March but, using existing reserves, DAPL continued the service in the hope of renewed funding from the Alcohol and Drugs Partnership.
“DAPL does regret having to stop providing this essential work after all the hard work developing information sharing and other protocol with the police and further developing cause for concern reports with children and families’ social work,” said Mr Grant.
He added: “These cuts are being made despite an increase in referrals and very positive outcomes being shown on the work provided.”
DAPL has also announced the termination of its triage service and the issuing of six redundancy notices, with around 20 more expected to follow this month.