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drug rehab saves a fortune

 Ground-breaking drug treatment and rehabilitation programs designed to stop addicts re-offending are saving the public millions, it has been revealed. Drug Treatment and Testing Orders were first tried out in Bristol three years ago as an alternative to prison sentences.

They work by quickly giving addicts access to detox centers and when they come out they are the subject of intense supervision.

Magistrates in Bristol have undergone training to deal with such cases and special courts began this month to ensure continuity and that people on DTTOs are making progress.

Before a DTTO, an average drug user spending about $2,000 a week on heroin or crack has to steal good worth three or four times that amount.

Nearly half the 429 people who were given DTTOs in the South West last year have managed to keep off drugs altogether and another 25 per cent are classed as partial successes because they have dramatically cut their drug use.

This potentially means up to $100 million-worth of goods have not been stolen in the region.

John Benstead, the area performance manager for Avon and Somerset Probation Area, said 48 drug addicts had been given DTTOs this year and a further 93 would be on the program next year.

He said: "The idea was to give courts the power to require offenders to undergo treatment.

"They undergo regular drug testing and a high level of supervised activity - between 15 and 20 hours a week.

"On top of this the courts regularly review their progress."

The DTTO program is managed by the Probation service with input from the Bristol Drug Action Team and dozens of treatment providers.

A drug management team is currently being set up to ensure those addicts who do break their DTTOs and end up in jail have support to stay off drugs as soon as they are released.

Mr Benstead said: "They go into prison and undergo detox but can relapse the day they come out if there is no support.

"We want to plug that gap, even to the point of meeting them at the prison gate."

Robin Lowe, who manages the DTTO courses for Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset, said: "Last year we had 46 people start new orders and I would say about half of those are now totally clean.

"I have worked in the probation service for 30 years and I would say this is one of the most worthwhile projects I have ever been involved with.

"We see the difference in the lives of the people we're working with, we know how much effect it is having on reducing re-offending and how much burglary rates go down."