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Lack of rehab help

 Attack over drug rehab action

Lack of rehab help has been blamed for deaths

The minister responsible for beating drug problems in Wales has admitted that there are no targets for rehabilitating addicts.

And across Wales, there are fewer than 30 beds for in-patient treatment of addicts.

Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart has come under attack from Conservative AM Alun Cairns, who claims the lack of real facts and figures shows the Welsh Assembly Government is just paying lip service to the problem.

Now Mrs Hart has asked local authority-based community safety partnerships to come up with targets by the autumn.

We need to be able to measure the progress we are making

Alun Cairns AM

And she has pointed out that no-one in the Welsh Assembly Government has ever denied the scale of the drug addiction problem Wales is experiencing.

It is estimated there may be 10,000 drug addicts in Wales alone - and those waiting for rehabilitation treatment may be waiting for more than a year to join detox programs.

But South Wales West AM Mr Cairns claims that these statistics - combined with the fact there are no targets for treating addicts - means everyone is working in a vacuum.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "I was staggered when I read Edwina Hart's response (to a written question) which was simply that there aren't any targets or data available to tell us how long people have to wait for drug rehabilitation treatment.

"If a drug abuser wants to come of drugs, if they are motivated to request that help, we need to be motivated to provide that help immediately.

"Unless we have targets, we can't measure the effect of the policy.

"We need to be able to measure the progress we are making."

Problems in many Welsh valleys are escalating

A total of $18m has been budgeted for drug treatment over the next three years by the Welsh assembly, and a further $11m has been set aside for a task force to deal with the social problems of addiction.

Mrs Hart has admitted that Wales needs many more in-patient beds and more detox units - particularly in the south Wales Valleys where, it is estimated, a drug addict dies every week.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the number of drug users dying while waiting for rehabilitation treatment was rising, despite the millions extra being set aside for care.

The true number of drug-related deaths cannot be calculated because there is no recognised way of recording them in Wales.

And there are fears that the problem was in danger of spiralling out of control.

Active campaigner

Anita Walters told BBC Wales that her son Christopher had been addicted to heroin for the last eight years - but had waited almost two years for rehabilitation treatment.

An active campaigner for better facilities, she was so concerned about a lack of services in their home town of Aberdare, south Wales, that when her son was in court for drug-related offences, she opposed his bail.

She believed he would get better treatment in prison and said that while he was inside, he was clean for four months.

But, within two days of being back home on the Penywaun estate, he was taking heroin again.

He said he desperately wanted to begin rehabilitation treatment but, like so many others, he was in a long queue.

"I've been to all the agencies and it's always the same story - I'm on the waiting list," he explained.

"The way things are, you die before you get help. That's the way I've lost most of my mates."

It costs between $4,000 and $5,000 each year per patient to fund community-based treatment - which covers counseling and providing a heroin substitute like methadone.

The cost is doubled for patients in residential rehabilitation care.

Even if treatment is offered, many people on low incomes find it too costly to travel to rehabilitation centers in other towns, and there have been repeated demands for more local facilities.