Offenders’ drug treatment future secured

THE treatment of drug addicts in the criminal system has been secured after the Courier highlighted the plight of a court-sanctioned programme last week.

No new offenders were being placed on the Drug Treatment and Testing (DTTO) programme after NHS Lothian gave notice that they wanted to withdraw their nursing and prescribing services from the council-run scheme.

The decision angered sheriffs who were denied a sentencing option as the council scrambled to find a new partner to provide the medical side of the programme.

Last week at Livingston Sheriff Court a sheriff described the situation as “unsatisfactory” after he had to defer sentence on an offender who had gone on a crime spree to feed his habit.

Sheriff Grahame Fleming said the matter was of “grave concern” given the drug problem which is “prevalent in this area”.

However, since the story appeared in the Courier last week the Scottish Government have become aware of the situation and NHS Lothian have now given a commitment to continue their services until a long-term solution can be found.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of issues in the provision of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTOs) in West Lothian, however, this matter has now been resolved. NHS Lothian have now confirmed to West Lothian Council that they have reviewed their position to enable existing DTTOs to be supported and new orders imposed.”

Dr Fiona Watson, clinical lead for addictions, NHS Lothian, confirmed: “NHS Lothian Substance Misuse Service will continue to work very closely with colleagues in the criminal justice system to ensure that appropriate services are provided until a long term solution is in place.”

The DTTO programme, which provides addicts with methadone to kick their habit, has been running in West Lothian for five years and is delivered by the council’s Criminal Justice Social Work Service. Addicts who persistently commit crimes to feed their habit can be placed on the programme by a sheriff with the aim of helping them off drugs and reducing their offending.

The council receive nearly £300,000 a year from the Scottish Government which they use to pay the health board for prescribing and nursing support.

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: “We look forward to continuing to work closely with NHS Lothian. We are confident that we will be able to work in partnership to find a long term solution.”