‘Fix mental health problem to solve resort’s drug crisis’, ex-addict says

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Solving Blackpool’s mental health crisis could help fix the resort’s drugs problem too, a former addict turned charity worker said.

Dean Kirton, a hostel manager at The Ashley Foundation, spoke out after the town was named the drugs death capital of England and Wales in yesterday’s Gazette.

He said: “Around three quarters of our residents have, or have had, substance misuse problems, but the vast majority of those also have mental health problems.

“What they need are good mental health services and support to deal with their problems.”

Mr Kirton, who has been clean for 10 years, said services in the resort are so stretched that he has seen people turned away because there are no beds for them.

“Those people just go out and self-medicate with illegal drugs,” he said.

“The police and ambulance services in this town are fantastic, but they’re at breaking point too, and sometimes they’re not getting to people quick enough to save them.

“We have to literally save lives in our hostels sometimes.”

Hotel resident Belinda, 54, has been recovering from a four-year heroin addiction for the past 12 months.

She said: “When you get the right support, it makes you want to live.”

As reported yesterday, some 76 people – an average of 19 per 100,000 population – died as a result of both illegal and legal drug use from 2013-15, as the number of deaths nationally hit its highest number since comparable records began in 1993.

Debbie Parr, support officer at The Ashley Foundation, a Blackpool homeless charity, said: “These figures are obviously devastating to read; so many lives lost and families affected due to drugs, but they only make services like ours more determined to do the absolute best by people in need.

“Blackpool has a huge and very vibrant recovery community which contributes so much to the town.

“They show that people can recover from drug addiction.”