A cut of nearly £1m to help people battle drug and alcohol dependency is 'costing lives' in Sheffield, a health group has said.
The worrying statistic comes as Sheffield Council revealed they have had £900,000 slashed from drug and alcohol rehabilitation budgets in just four years.
Data provided by UK Addiction Treatment Centres show the local authority spent £7.2m in 2013/2014 but £6.3m has been budgeted for 2017/2018.
UKAT has said Sheffield has seen a 47 per cent rise in the number of people dying from drug misuse, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
But Sheffield Council bosses said deaths caused by drug misuse 'do not show the increase discussed by UKAT', and the figures cover a 'much broader scope'. There are 18 to 22 people sadly die each year in the city, a council spokesman said.
Experts have suggested ‘smoke and mirror’ tactics are being used to force Sheffield Council into ‘spinning more plates with less money’.
Although Sheffield’s Public Health Grant has risen from £29,665,000 four years ago to £34,235,000 this year, UKAT said there has been a 'transfer of new responsibilities' to all upper tier councils during this period, equating to a 'real terms cut' to budgets.
UKAT added that the data disclosed to them shows that during 2013/14, 24 per cent of the grant was spent on drug and alcohol strategies across Sheffield, but this has fallen to 18 per cent this financial year.
Eytan Alexander, founder of UKAT, said: "What our Freedom of Information Requests reveal is that since the Government made the decision to remove the protected drug and alcohol treatment budget, Sheffield City Council has been forced into spinning even more plates with even less money. This decision was, without a doubt, a catalyst for disaster.
“Slashing budgets on substance misuse is a false economy as it simply piles the pressure on our already stretched emergency services.
“The alarming correlation between the real term cut to Council budgets and the rise in drug-related deaths across the country needs to be addressed and this vicious cycle needs to end.
Sheffield sits in the top 30 Councils with the highest amount for budget cuts for substance misuse between 2013/14 and 2017/18.
Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for health and social care at Sheffield City Council, said: “We have had to make savings to our services due to Government cuts, like all other authorities. But we have not experienced the increase in drug misuse deaths indicated by UKAT.
“Any drug-related death is one too many, and we consistently work with other services to look at how we support people.
"We made the bulk of our savings when we re-modelled our treatment system in 2014 and the savings were made on premises and overhead costs, not treatment places. We are aware that being in treatment is a significant protective factor against drug related deaths and as such, our priority is to provide high quality and accessible treatment to all Sheffield residents who need it.
“More people are accessing treatment than at any point in the last five years and more people are successfully completing it.
“A key factor in Sheffield is that our services are open access, which means people can walk in during opening hours and be seen there and then. This was recognised by the CQC which awarded the services an ‘Outstanding’ for responsiveness. We’re promoting this – and all of the support for people affected by drugs and alcohol in Sheffield - during September’s National Recovery Month.
“I’d urge anyone affected by issues to get in touch. Help is available and recovery is possible.”
Visit www.sheffielddact.org.uk or call (0114) 273 6851 for confidential advice and information about the help on offer in Sheffield, as well as the events taking place during recovery month.