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Pike, Brigid (2007) Task force adopts new strategic approach. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 22, Summer 2007, p. 11.

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In March 2007 Minister Noel Ahern TD launched Research leading to a future strategy for Dublin North East Drugs Task Force.1 The document reports that a growing range of drugs is being used in the task force area, that polydrug use has become increasingly common, and that, in contrast to heroin use, there is no apparent association between cocaine or cannabis use and socio-economic background.

The definition of prevention is to be widened to include individual, community and family ‘risk’ as well as ‘protective’ factors. Formal and informal prevention methods are to be used, and channels are to include schools, the media, outreach, and initiatives in respect of active citizenship and ‘social capital’.

The provision of treatment and rehabilitation options will follow a polydrug use and continuum of care approach, and alternative project approaches will be offered, to cater not only for opiate users but also for polydrug and alcohol users, who may be less likely to seek assistance through existing projects. The task force will explore the establishment of a community-based project integrating medical and social treatment options. The quality of services will be improved through training and development for service deliverers, and the establishment of a users’ forum.

Supply and control initiatives will include building a better relationship between police and the community; the development of a toxic substances protocol; setting up an information line for passing on information to the gardaí; and support for social planning in new and existing areas, to help reduce the incidence of drug dealing and anti-social behaviour.

Targeting of services is also highlighted. Prevention, diversionary and treatment services are to be developed specifically for young people. Families will be the subject of targeted interventions in the areas of prevention, harm reduction, treatment and ultimately rehabilitation and social reintegration. Special and focused initiatives for cocaine users are to be explored.

Stakeholders interviewed for the strategy were generally of the view that in recent years the task force has ‘lost some direction, vibrancy and relevance to current drug problems’ (p. 56). The report recommends a raft of structural changes to revitalise the task force, including focusing the role of the task force more narrowly on developing overall policy, developing a thematic annual work plan, overseeing the implementation of strategy and governance; strengthening the expert or advisory roles of the task force’s sub-committees; setting up local area committees to develop local actions and measures linking in with new and existing local projects; building a community representative structure to ensure the community remains at the heart of the task force while also strengthening accountability; and establishing a technical support unit to assist the funded projects and services in accessing the latest research, information and best practice.

Finally, acknowledging that the solution to the drugs problem is bigger than the task force, the strategy identifies a series of initiatives to develop integrated/joined up/interagency responses, to investigate the relationship of drug problems to social exclusion and the local economy, and to undertake advocacy, lobbying and networking.

Not considered in Research leading to a future strategy are the efficiency, effectiveness, potential impact and value for money of the options identified in the report. These matters were the focus of an expenditure review of local drugs task forces completed in October 2006.2 Among its findings and recommendations are several relevant to task forces reviewing their strategies. For example:

-          Consideration of the likely impact and value for money of projects should inform the selection and overall mix of projects.

         To enhance efficiency, the review recommends the establishment of clear reporting relationships and related monitoring systems, the development of standard monitoring templates for projects, and the adoption of a system of performance indicators for projects, LDTF processes, individual LDTFs, and the LDTF Programme as a whole.

-          While considering the LDTF model effective, the review raises a concern regarding the feasibility of the model: ‘…there is a widely held view that the energy and capability of the community to engage in drug interventions is subject to limits. This indicates that relatively realistic targets for the LDTF Programme should be set going forward’ (p. 47). 

1. Watters N (2007) Research leading to a future strategy for Dublin North East Drugs Task Force. Dublin: Dublin North East Drugs Task Force. Available online at http://www.dnetaskforce.ie/

2. Goodbody Economic Consultants (2006) Expenditure review of the local drugs task forces. Commissioned by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Available online at https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/11701/

 

Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 22, Summer 2007
Date
April 2007
Page Range
p. 11
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 22, Summer 2007
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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