FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has opened an “innovative” new rehabilitation service which will allow families to stay together while a parent receives treatment for drug or alcohol use.

The First Minister opened Harper House in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, on Monday morning, saying her government was “determined” to make rehabilitation services easier to access for people across Scotland.

In 2021, the Scottish Government awarded the Phoenix Futures charity £8 million to establish the family rehabilitation service, which will help parents with problematic drug or alcohol use get help without the fear of being separated from their children.

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A total of 1339 people in Scotland lost their lives to drugs in 2020, the highest on record. This fell by just a fraction of a percent to 1330 people in 2021, the second worst year on record.

In 2021, the number of women who lost their lives to drugs reached a record high of 397.

Speaking at the opening of Harper House, Sturgeon said: “We are determined to make it easier for people with problem drug or alcohol use to access treatment, so I am pleased to open this facility offering families the chance to stay together while parents receive specialist support in a safe and structured environment.

“Though men are more likely to use and experience harms from drugs, there has been a disproportionate increase in drug-related deaths among women and there is a strong link between women having children removed from their care and risk of drug-related death.

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“Harper House is funded through the Residential Rehabilitation Rapid Capacity Programme and will contribute towards the Scottish Government’s aim to treble the number of publicly funded residential rehabilitation placements to 1000 by 2026.”

The Saltcoats facility will take referrals from across Scotland and can support up to 20 families at any one time for placements between three and six months long. The Scottish Government said this means up to 80 families will be supported annually.

As well as providing rehab services, staff at the centre will help to support child development, parenting skills and the overall health and wellbeing of all family members.

Phoenix Futures chief executive Karen Biggs said her charity was “delighted to be working with the Scottish Government to launch this innovative new service”.

Biggs went on: “Harper House will support families affected by mental health and substance use to access the care they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

“The pressures of family life, combined with the range of support parents may need to access in their communities, can make it impossible for parents to give their families the care they desire. Harper House brings together onsite multi-disciplinary experts, evidence based interventions and a specially designed environment so that families from across Scotland can live and learn together.”

The Scottish Government said that the centre would help in its goal to “Keep The Promise” of providing a country in which young people to “grow up loved, safe, and respected”.