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'We should be proud of our drugs service, not blame it for everything' Supporters of rehab centre hit back at criticism.

Byline: LINDA WHITWAM

SUPPORTERS of the drugs and alcohol treatment service in Huddersfield town centre have hit back at critics.

Public bodies and private businessmen have rallied round the embattled Lifeline centre, based in Station Street.

They claim that: ? Lifeline saves the public tens of thousands of pounds every year. ? The problems of anti-social behaviour in the town centre date back to before Lifeline's presence in the area.

. ? They are helping to REDUCE crime and anti-social behaviour by assisting users to stay off drugs and alcohol.

Now supporters and the manager of Lifeline, Bridget Hughes, have called for everyone - Lifeline, the police, Kirklees Council, other service providers and local businesses - to work together to tackle the town centre problem.

Their plea follows a story in the Examiner in which Kirklees Council discussed the possibility of Lifeline moving to premises in New North road in 18 months' time.

Ms Hughes says that it is essential that Lifeline Kirklees remains within the town centre as most of its clients, including a number of mothers with babies, use public transport to get to the centre.

What they say: NHS KIRKLEES A spokesman said Lifeline Kirklees had developed a national reputation for its effective drugs and alcohol treatment since it was set up in 2006. Every pounds 1 spent on drugs treatment at Lifeline results in pounds 5.93 being saved elsewhere in the health and criminal justice systems.

In addition, the commissioning and effectiveness of services for drug users within Kirklees are the best in Yorkshire and Humber and in the top 10% in the country. NHS Kirklees chief operating officer Carol McKenna (pictured) said: "NHS Kirklees takes its public protection duties very seriously. We acknowledge that there has been a long-standing problem of street drinking in Huddersfield with associated drug use and anti-social behaviour. This is a feature of most town centres and goes back before Lifeline located in Station Street. "I believe it would be wrong to assume that anyone consuming alcohol, or behaving inappropriately, in and around St Peter's Gardens must be a Lifeline client. The treatment centre cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of those not using their services and not engaged in treatment. "It should be a source of pride that these services punch substantially above their weight, given the many issues of poverty and disadvantage we face in Kirklees."

LOCAL BUSINESS Restaurateur Robert Melman (pictured) owns Argento Argentinian Steakhouse on the corner of St Peter's Street and John William Street and his backyard is the same as Lifeline's.

He said: "I have been here nearly eight years and the bad behaviour has nothing to do with Lifeline. The problems were always here before Lifeline moved here.

"Some 90% of the bad behaviour is at night when Lifeline is closed. They do a fantastic job, the managers there are really battling away and they put a lot of effort in. They are very good neighbours."

Mr Bal Khela, of Birkby, is the landlord of the Station Street premises occupied by the drugs service.

He said: "Lifeline is in the town centre for a reason and it is providing a valuable service for our community. "People can't blame everything on Lifeline, the shops selling cheap alcohol are not being asked to move out of the town centre."

LIFELINE MANAGER Bridget Hughes said that Lifeline Kirklees, and the associated alcohol treatment centre On Track, located in the basement of the same building, dealt with almost 3,000 people every year.

The centre issued contracts with its users and any breach which resulted in a crime was reported to police by staff.

She said: "Our effectiveness has been proven by the result that we have achieved in terms of reduced substance use, crime and anti-social behaviour, also in improved health, wellbeing and family relationships. We help people to overcome complex and long-standing problems.

" It would be wrong to assume that anybody acting irresponsibly, consuming alcohol and engaging in anti-social behaviour in the town centre must always be a Lifeline client.

"We recognise we have a joint responsibility to work with other organisations including businesses. We have a great deal of respect for all our neighbours and want to work with local businesses."

COUNCIL LEADER Clr Mehboob Khan (pictured) said: " "We have looked into the issue of anti-social behaviour around the Station Street building and we do not believe this is something within Lifeline's control. "The people responsible are a small minority, which is also the case in the wider town centre area. The council does not tolerate this sort of criminal and anti-social behaviour. Right across town our staff, including community rangers, always take action if they see anyone breaking the law.

"It is vital that people feel safe and secure when they visit the town centre and that's something the council focuses on. In particular, Clrs Jean Calvert and Peter McBride work with the police, local businesses and local community groups to achieve this around Lifeline and in the wider area."

A tough problem ? Kirklees has 2,464 problem drug users of heroin and crack cocaine. This is down from over 3,000 in 2006/07.

. ? Of the 2,464, 1,479 were in 'effective treatment' at the end of 2010/11, with 525 making a successful recovery.

. ? Over 50% of people receiving drugs treatment are offenders, 40% have children and 25% are women.

. ? Lifeline is funded by a pooled budget managed by NHS Kirklees in partnership with Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire Police and the Probation Service.

CAPTION(S):

* DIFFICULT JOB: Lifeline on Station Street, Huddersfield
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:927
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