Home > Shared Solutions: First strategic plan of the Western Region Drugs Task Force.

Fanagan, Sarah (2006) Shared Solutions: First strategic plan of the Western Region Drugs Task Force. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 18, Summer 2006, pp. 19-20.

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The first strategic plan of the Western Region Drugs Task Force (WRDTF), entitled Shared Solutions, was published this year (2006).1 


The WRDTF was established in 2003.  It covers counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon (GMR).  Shared Solutions incorporates the discussions of the WRDTF, local views expressed during two ‘Open Space’ consultation events held in November 2004, as well as information presented in a range of regional and national policy documents, research reports and other literature.  The strategic plan takes the ‘four pillars’ of the National Drugs Strategy as its main themes: research; prevention and education; treatment; and supply reduction.


Despite the fact that Ireland’s national alcohol and drugs strategies are managed separately, the WRDTF decided early on to include alcohol in its first strategic plan. The plan explains the reason for this decision: ‘This decision reflects the reality that alcohol is the main problem drug nationally and regionally, and that the nature of substance misuse in our society does not necessarily follow lines neatly drawn by political, legal, social or institutional definitions.’


The strategic plan sets out a broad framework for integrated action and highlights the many inter-related issues to be addressed in the short, medium and long term.  One of the broad aims of the strategic plan is to strengthen the protective factors that will assist communities, families and individuals to deal with substance use in the future.


Shared solutions

The shared solutions approach acknowledges that no one agency can tackle all drug-related problems on its own.  However, joint planning and forward thinking may facilitate the development of shared solutions and integrated service planning that will address the drug and alcohol problem early and reduce the harmful impact of drug and alcohol misuse.  This approach requires co-ordination, shared values and inter-agency co-operation.


The WRDTF intends to take a co-ordinating role in the development of projects specifically designed to prevent or tackle drug and alcohol misuse.  ‘The Task Force wants to work with agencies and communities in urban and rural areas to identify their own needs, develop their own plans and prioritise their own developments.’  It intends to integrate with existing structures, such as county development boards, social inclusion working groups, community forums and so on, in order to support these development plans.


The consultation process identified service gaps and other problems.  The strategic plan includes an outline of proposed developments and their indicative costs.  The proposed developments are grouped under four main themes: Task Force staffing and setup, measures to address gaps in services, grants and research (see table).


Task Force staffing and setup

·         Task Force co-ordinator

·         Project worker

·         Administrator

·         Training budget

·         Website development

·         Accommodation

Measures to address gaps in services

·         Four community liaison posts, in Galway city and county, Mayo and Roscommon, in order to link the social inclusion measures working group of each county development board.

·         Three education support workers to support the implementation and ongoing delivery of the SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) programmes and other community-based education programmes around substance misuse issues.

·         Three nurses to provide community-based drug and alcohol detoxification, one for each county (GMR).

·         Substance misuse worker for the homeless, who will develop a pilot project to engage with homeless people in the hostels and support projects. 

·         Pharmacy liaison worker to work with pharmacists, GPs and relevant agencies on the issue of misuse of benzodiazepines and other medicines.  The pharmacy liaison worker will also offer training and support to pharmacists and work with them in relation to the development of a needle-exchange programme.

·         Three community substance misuse brief intervention counsellors based in the third level colleges (National University of Ireland, Galway and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology).

·         Substance misuse consultant post

·         Local inpatient detoxification beds to provide specialist inpatient alcohol and drug detoxification.

·         Regional inpatient drug and alcohol treatment unit to replace the addiction treatment unit closed down in 2003.

·         Funding to purchase rehabilitation places for drug and alcohol clients in existing programmes.

·         Funding to develop a residential support service for homeless people.

Grants for

·         community-based projects

·         education, information and support for families affected by addiction

·         primary prevention initiatives for young people


·         Substance misuse in the Traveller community

·         Misuse of benzodiazepines and other medicines

·         Service delivery for marginalised groups

·         Evaluation of Task Force Implementation Plan

The consultation process and research review highlighted a number of key issues which require further analysis and consideration:


Protective factors – planning in order to reduce exposure to drug and alcohol misuse

Early intervention and treatment – providing early access to help or treatment

Rehabilitation and relapse prevention – maintaining a drug-free lifestyle

Relevance and need – projects must be drug or alcohol related, and directly relevant to the objectives of the regional and national drug strategies

Monitoring and evaluation – all projects will be subject to monitoring and evaluation criteria

Value for money – projects or initiatives must demonstrate value for money


The full complement of task force staff has now been appointed and the full-time co-ordinator is due to take up the post in the near future.  This, along with the provision of appropriate funds, will enable the development and implementation of an operational plan.  It is acknowledged that the practical work of the WRDTF is only beginning.   Considerable effort and commitment is required in order to address the problems relating to substance misuse, and to develop and strengthen the inter-agency partnerships needed to make real progress.


1. Western Region Drugs Task Force (2006) Shared Solutions: First strategic plan of the Western Region Drugs Task Force. Castlebar: Western Region Drugs Task Force. 


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 18, Summer 2006
April 2006
Page Range
pp. 19-20
Health Research Board
Issue 18, Summer 2006
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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