A BLACKBURN-based community group has launched a new initiative to combat substance abuse.

The Steer Clear Awareness Programme from IMO (Inspire, Motivate, Overcome) aims to take a hands-on approach to create more awareness around the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

The charity says Blackburn with Darwen is presently ranked fourth in England for the highest levels of opiates and crack cocaine use.

A spokesperson for IMO said: “The Office for National Statistics Crime severity tool was used to calculate the level of harm of crime in Blackburn with Darwen indicating the highest levels of harm were assault, burglaries and rape. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol misuse continue to contribute to these crimes resulting in a community, which is heavily deprived and suffers such detrimental consequences.

“Education and awareness of substances which cause individuals and families severe harm is needed to prevent further substance misuse.

“IMO aims to take a hands-on approach by raising the awareness around the harms of drug and alcohol misuse in a hope to tackle common misconceptions and the negative stigma attached to discussing substance misuse, especially in the BAME community. We must overcome this sensitive matter to achieve a brighter future for the next generations to come.”

The first session will take place on January 26 from 10am to noon at the Business Development Centre, Eanam Wharf, Blackburn.

The session is open to all including users of substances, supporting family members of users, parents and anyone who would like to know more about substance misuse.

Anyone wanting further information can call 01254 781310.