Home > Committee of Public Accounts. Special report no. 64 of Comptroller and Auditor General: Drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation (resumed).

[Oireachtas] Committee of Public Accounts. Special report no. 64 of Comptroller and Auditor General: Drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation (resumed). (17 Dec 2009)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/commit...

Ms Kathleen Stack (Assistant Secretary, National Drugs Strategy, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs) called and examined.

Chairman:    I draw everyone’s attention to the fact that while members of the committee enjoy absolute privilege, the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. The committee cannot guarantee any level of privilege to witnesses appearing before it. I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Members are also reminded of the provisions within Standing Order No. 158, that the committee shall also refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policies.

I welcome Ms Kathleen Stack, Assistant Secretary, national drugs strategy, of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Ms Stack, please introduce your officials.

Ms Kathleen Stack:  I am accompanied by Mr. Michael Conroy, principal officer in the drugs unit in the Department.

Chairman:    I welcome Dr. Jean Long, head of alcohol and drugs research unit, Health Research Board. Dr. Long, please introduce yourself.

Dr. Jean Long:  I am on my own.

Chairman:    I welcome Ms Alice O’Flynn, assistant national director social inclusion, HSE. Ms O’Flynn, please introduce your officials.

Ms Alice O’Flynn:  I am accompanied by Mr. Liam Keane, national specialist for social inclusion with the HSE and Mr. Joseph Doyle, national rehabilitation co-ordinator.

Chairman:   I also welcome an official from the Department of Finance.

Mr. John Conlon:  I am a principal officer in the sectoral policy division.

Chairman: Mr. Buckley, please introduce Special Report No. 64 on drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation.

Mr. John Buckley:  We are dealing with Special Report No. 64 — drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation. The focus of that report was on examining progress over the period 2001-2008 looking particularly at whether required treatment was being made available in a timely way; the arrangements in place for evaluating treatment effectiveness and how well the services were co-ordinated.

The report identified gaps in provision, care planning and co-ordination which I outlined in two previous sessions. The first meeting in July 2009 reviewed the role of the HSE and the co-ordinating role of the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The second meeting in September 2009 considered drug treatment and rehabilitation in the criminal justice system.

In the meantime, a new drugs strategy, National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 was published on 10 September of this year. I would like to touch on one particular matter on this occasion. A recurring theme throughout the report and more generally is the need for better information. Gaps in knowledge include the extent to which illicit drug taking develops into problem drug use, the number of persons who use drugs but do not seek treatment, the actual demand for treatment and the time people are waiting to be assessed for that treatment, treatment completion rates and outcomes for individual clients and the costs of the various treatment services

Clearly, more people use drugs than seek treatment. However, from the viewpoint of information the collection and analysis of accurate data on treatment would be a good starting point. In that area there are two existing information sources. First, a statutory register of all patients receiving methadone is maintained — this is known as the central treatment list. Second, the national drug treatment reporting system which is a database maintained by the Health Research Board based on information provided by drug treatment service providers. However, the capacity of the national drug treatment reporting system to provide information, which would be useful for both service planning and evaluation of effectiveness, is limited in particular since the database in its current form is not a reliable basis for estimating the numbers receiving treatment, the type of treatment provided or the outcome of the treatment in individual cases. By comparison, the use of a unique identifier in other jurisdictions allows for the collection and analysis of that type of information. As well as this, information gaps arose due to the fact that some service providers did not make returns to the national drug treatment reporting system and there were differences between service providers in how data was recorded. The new National Drugs Strategy 2009 - 2016 signals that consideration will be given to the adoption of a unique identifier and acknowledges the need to record the outcomes of treatment and provide information in a timely way. I am sure the Department and the Health Research Board will provide updates of plans and progress in that regard.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Buckley. Would Ms Stack like to make her opening statement?

[For the full debate, click on this link to the Oireachtas website]


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