A REMEMBRANCE event for 200 people who have died from an overdose in Barnsley was held on Wednesday in the hope of signposting those struggling with addiction to the help services available amid rocketing demand.

International Overdose Awareness Day was marked in the Glass Works public square on Wednesday, and saw the council join forces with health leaders and Humankind, a charity which helps substance misusers towards recovery.

A total of 200 have succumbed as a result of an overdose in the last decade, with a huge jump during the two-year pandemic which saw 29 deaths related to drug poisoning in Barnsley in 2021, as well as 38 the previous year.

Coun Caroline Makinson, cabinet spokesperson for public health and communities, said: “I want to extend my deepest sympathies to anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to an overdose - they are loved and they are missed.

“In Barnsley, we want everyone to have access to the right support at the right time and place so problems can be tackled early and they can enjoy life in good physical and mental health.

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“Therefore, it’s important that we eliminate the stigma surrounding overdoses, so our residents feel comfortable getting help - it does not discriminate and can affect anyone.”

Since the council’s contract began with Humankind-operated Recovery Steps in April 2017, 9,110 people have contacted the service for information, advice, support or treatment.

Recovery Steps offer free and confidential treatment and support to anyone aged 18 years or over experiencing problems with substance misuse.

The support is tailored for different needs, including harm reduction and early prevention support, structured treatment programmes and recovery and aftercare support.

In addition, the Thrive Complex Needs Service provides emergency accommodation and support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Emily Todd, regional director for Humankind, added: “International Overdose Awareness Day is an important one to remember the loved ones that have lost their lives, to work together to combat stigma around drug use and make sure that everyone who uses drugs knows that help is available to them.

“Recovery Steps provides free and confidential support, harm reduction advice and treatment options to anyone experiencing drug or alcohol issues.

“We encourage anyone who needs help to get in touch.”

Although drug-related deaths have spiked during the last two years, Humankind blamed national underfunding for treatment and services instead of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “The recent drug-related death statistics are harrowing but to state that the increased figures are primarily because of the pandemic is misleading.

“There is no doubt that Covid made it more difficult for drug and alcohol services to treat people as it led to reduced access to in-person services, increased the isolation people faced therefore making it more likely that someone might overdose alone, but the rise in drug related deaths would have likely occurred without Covid.

“Drug-related deaths have been rising steadily for almost a decade and last year’s figures are not a Covid anomaly, they are the result of years of underfunding at a national level for treatment and support services such as ours.”

* For more information about the support available from Recovery Steps, visit humankindcharity.org.uk/service/barnsley-recovery-steps, call 779066 or email brs.referrals@humankindcharity.org.uk.