Home > Southern Regional Drugs Task Force stresses ‘humanistic’ approach.

Pike, Brigid (2013) Southern Regional Drugs Task Force stresses ‘humanistic’ approach. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 44, Winter 2012, p. 14.

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As well as reporting on drug use in counties Cork and Kerry during 2011 and detailing the projects funded, together with the outputs and outcomes, the co-ordinator and chair of the Southern Regional Drugs Task Force (SRDTF) have used their 2011 annual report as a vehicle for setting out their vision of how the individual should be at the centre of a task force’s responses to the illicit drugs problem.1 

Innovation and development
Co-ordinator Christ Black reports that, as well as focusing on its funded projects, the SRDTF has been involved in innovative development work that draws on international sources. He suggests this is ‘setting the seeds for a more user friendly, person centred and health based approach to drugs policy and drugs support’. Initiatives include:
-   Developing an effective service user involvement (SUI) strategy by sending development workers from the SRDTF and the South East RDTF to attend training in Scotland, provided by ‘Involving Expertise’, which is funded by the Scottish Government to create a culture of innovation and continuous improvement in service user involvement across all organisations in Scotland. These development workers are now rolling out training to treatment centres in their task force areas.
-   Engaging with third-level students and raising awareness of perceived high levels of drinking through use of an online, evidence-based resource called e-Pub (Electronic Personal Use Barometer), developed in San Diego, which allows an individual to assess their drinking habits, and incorporates a brief intervention.
-   A new style of policing that embraces human rights and harm reduction is the subject of a proposal being developed by the SRDTF in conjunction with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC). The proposal encompasses work that the SRDTF has been progressing, such as an arrest referral process, and ‘a visionthat drug users be viewed as having a health issue and in need of support, rather than being seen as criminals within the criminal justice system’.
Care and nurturing
In a personal introduction to the report, the chair of the SRDTF, Peadar King,2 reflects on what the SRDTF does and what it should be doing. He contrasts the ‘harsh and unsympathetic response to drug producers and consumers’ adopted generally around the world following the ratification of the 1961 UN convention and its concomitant treaties, with the response of civil society, health activists and field workers who foreground citizens’ human rights and promote harm reduction strategies. King is concerned that this focus on human rights and the reduction of harm may be undermined by the new wave of managerialism, the effects of which he likens to the destructive impact of the original UN Convention. He writes:
As with other Task Forces in the country, these types of [harm reduction] interventions as well as prevention, education, treatment and aftercare are core to the work of the Southern Regional Task Force. But it is also the case that the emphasis on the bureaucratic management of these interventions has increased exponentially and this has become a feature of the three years of my involvement with this Task Force. This new managerialism or what has become known as New Public Service Management is not just a feature of drugs policy but increasingly is affecting all areas of human interaction. This new managerialism has spawned a new lexicon, ‘organizational outputs, performance indicators, service users, clients’, terms that President Michael D. Higgins described at the start of 2012 as inappropriate as he urged people to use the ‘language of the heart’. 


1. Black C (2012) Southern Regional Drugs Task Force: annual report 2011. Cork: Southern Regional Drugs Task Force. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/18470

2. Peadar King is author of The politics of drugs: from production to consumption, Liffey Press, Dublin, 2003. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/3690

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