Home > LDTFs look to 2009 and beyond.

Pike, Brigid (2009) LDTFs look to 2009 and beyond. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 30, Summer 2009, pp. 5-6.

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 In 2007/08 local drugs task forces (LDTFs) completed a strategic review and planning process, undertaken at the invitation of the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST). The object of the exercise was to identify the needs in LDTF areas in relation to drug misuse, to contribute to the 'renewal' of LDTFs by enabling the sharing among all agencies and sectors of a clear strategic focus, and to help inform the choice of future drug strategies. This article summarises the findings of an unpublished analysis of the reports furnished to the NDST by the 13 LDTFs.1

 Community profiles
The LDTFs identified a number of common themes indicating continuing social deprivation in their areas, including lower levels of educational attainment and higher levels of unemployment, local authority housing and lone parent households than the national average. They also outlined how local settlement patterns may be affecting their work. LDTF catchment areas may contain neighbourhoods experiencing deprivation interspersed with neighbourhoods experiencing 'significant advantage': this presents challenges for targeting services effectively. Certain LDTFs have seen the 'gentrification' of their areas: this has led to heightened feelings of isolation and marginalisation among some of the original residents.
 Nature and extent of drug use
The LDTFs reported that heroin is still the primary drug of misuse. However, there has been a significant increase in the use of cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs. In line with this expansion, the incidence of polydrug use has also increased. With regard to users, the LDTFs highlighted the much higher drug-use prevalence among males than females. They drew attention to the increased drug use among non-Irish and Traveller communities, and among the homeless. They also noted the increased prevalence of blood-borne viral infections and the relationship between drug misuse and mental health. These patterns of drug use raise challenging issues with regard to the design and delivery of effective drug-related services.  
Gaps in services
A range of gaps in service provision was highlighted by the LDTFs, including:
  •  services that are accessible to non-national communities,
  •  childcare services for clients wanting to attend treatment and rehabilitation services,
  •  drug services catering exclusively for the needs of young drug users,
  •  prevention initiatives for people in the early stages of drug use,
  •  services for people misusing alcohol, and
  •  supply reduction initiatives at local level.
 Strategic priorities
The role of the LDTFs is to prepare action plans that will ensure the implementation of the national drugs strategy at local level. The LDTFs identified strategic priorities under the pillars of the strategy, including the following:
  • Research: develop a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system to measure the effectiveness of drug projects, and encourage projects piloting new programmes to evaluate them on a regular basis, and conduct locally based research projects.
  • Prevention: refocus prevention work to take into account peer processes, family support and community development, e.g. increase early intervention programmes in pre-school and early primary school years, with a special focus on children of drug users and children of families in difficult circumstances.
  • Treatment and rehabilitation: adopt the continuum of care approach to meeting the needs of clients, and develop an appropriate range of treatment and rehabilitation services for young people (aged 12-18 years), e.g. develop a separate strategy for under-18s, or pilot psychosocial support projects for under-18s in collaboration with the HSE.
  • Supply reduction: support existing anonymous 'dial to stop drug dealing' type initiatives and establish similar schemes in LDTF areas where they currently do not exist; hold community information evenings to exchange information, network and build and develop partnerships between the gardaí, the community and drug-related services.
  • Family support and co-ordination: establish training in strengthening families for all workers, and put in place early intervention initiatives to build capacity within families; develop policies and procedures to improve communication across the various groups and projects active within the LDTF areas.
 Effectiveness of LDTF structures
LDTFs were generally positive about their role in introducing and supporting drug-related services and initiatives and were also confident that their structures and processes were functioning effectively. The management of mainstreamed projects, and the ongoing role and responsibility of LDTFs with regard to these projects, was raised as an issue. In parallel, some LDTFs highlighted the limited input and in some cases lack of interest on the part of statutory services regarding the task force process, and lack of clarity about their own roles on the LDTFs.  Strategic priorities included:
  •  increasing the profile and understanding of the work of the LDTFs in the community through the development of omprehensive communication strategies,
  •  facilitating the involvement of people affected by drug addiction in the work of the task forces by supporting the establishment of service-user forums, and
  •  developing key performance indicators and systems to monitor progress and inform future development across programmes. 
 1. Foran S (2008) Local drug task force strategic review and planning process 2008-2013: An overview. Report prepared for the NDST. Not published.


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