A MOTHER of four who “got in with the wrong crowd” died of a drug-related incident shortly after her release from prison, an inquest has heard.

Claire Copeland, 41, from Consett, died in the early hours of June 18 last year, with heroin and 19 other substances in her system.  

Despite the best efforts of three sets of paramedics trying to resuscitate her, she died at the scene of respiratory failure, caused by drugs.

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At the Coroner’s Court in Crook, County Durham, it was documented that Miss Copeland had been released from prison on Friday, June 11, 2021, after serving a six-month sentence, and a week later, died after spiralling back into drugs.

The court heard how Miss Copeland’s life had been “taken over” by drugs, before she’d made progress to cut illicit substances out of her life during her time in HMP Low Newton.

After her release, the 41-year-old had received the support of drug-support network Humankind, who were providing her with regular prescriptions for methadone and morphine.

The Northern Echo: Claire Copeland. Picture: FAMILY PHOTO.Claire Copeland. Picture: FAMILY PHOTO.

However, on June 12, the day after she was released from prison, a mix-up in her prescription of 10 milligrams of morphine meant that she was “left to her own devices” over the weekend – leading to Miss Copeland looking for other methods of trying to get her prescription.

The inquest heard that Miss Copeland’s prescription was left in a post box outside Boots Pharmacy in Consett on June 11 by a worker from Humankind.

But when the 41-year-old tried to access her prescription the next day, it wasn’t available, due to an adjoining GP surgery next to Boots being the only key holder for the post box.

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As a result, Miss Copeland’s prescription wasn’t available until June 14 – by which time, she’d turned back to illicit substances.

During the hearing, those present heard from Boots pharmacist Helen Usher and Julie Allinson, from Humankind, who insisted that they did “all they could” to prevent a mix-up with the prescription.

However, Coroner Jeremy Chipperfield, who presided over today’s hearing, believed that while the mix-up wasn’t a factor in Miss Copeland’s death, “lessons could be learned” from both agencies, with Mr Chipperfield noting that he would write to Consett Boots and Humankind about future prescriptions.

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He said: “I believe while there wasn’t a failure in the case from both agencies, it was a trigger for Claire that she didn’t have her prescription.

“The progress that Claire had made in prison and on her release was significant, and who’s to say that she wouldn’t have continued down this path of beating drugs – we’ll never know.

“However, it was clear that there was a relapse and the lack of access to a prescription didn’t help. I will consider the question of whether it could be a fact or in future deaths.

“I will propose a risk strategy for both Boots and Humankind for them to address that risk.”

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After the hearing  Claire’s sister Donna Copeland called for an alteration in the system and how people can access prescriptions – preventing her sister becoming “just another statistic”.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Miss Copeland said: “This judgement today is a little bit of clarity for our family. She had four children and she was hardworking, she liked to go out, but she got in with the wrong crowd.

“I don’t want others to be taken in the same way my sister was and there has to be something done so that she’s not another statistic.”

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