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Pike, Brigid (2014) National Drugs Strategy Conference. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 49, Spring 2014, pp. 1-3.

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On 16 January 2014 the Department of Health hosted a half-day conference for those in the government, statutory, community and voluntary sectors working in the drugs and alcohol field. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD  and Minister of State Alex White TD (pictured) addressed the conference. They were followed by Fergus McCabe of CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign and Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP), representing the community and voluntary sectors.  

Reaffirming the primacy of the National Drugs Strategy and the five ‘pillars’, Tánaiste Gilmore stressed the importance of maintaining the partnership approach in face of emerging challenges, including prescription drugs and grow houses. Minister White outlined the extensive review of the drugs task forces and the series of bilateral meetings with other government ministers, state agencies and the community and voluntary sectors on drugs and alcohol issues, which had just concluded. Susan Scally of the Drug Policy Unit in the Department of Health described the outcomes of the review and the bilaterals and this information is covered in the article ‘Supporting local efforts to tackle the drug problem’ on p. 4 of this issue.
Speaking on behalf of the community sector and reflecting on the last twenty or so years of drug policy implementation in Ireland, Fergus McCabe listed five things necessary to ensure effective policy implementation:
-    political commitment with a special focus on disadvantage,
-    effective cross-cutting and co-ordinating structures,
-    equitable distribution of adequate resources,
-    timely and relevant research and evaluation, and
-    processes for real engagement involving all sectors.
Tony Duffin of ALDP spoke on behalf of the National Voluntary Drug Sector (NVDS), a representative body of voluntary drug services across the state which engages with the drugs task force structures and processes. The NVDS has identified four key issues regarding the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy:
-    Lack of a national representative body to oversee implementation: in principle, the newly established National Co-ordinating Committee will meet this need but to be effective it must be a real decision-making forum.
-    Role of drugs task forces needs to be refocused and reconstituted: the recent review addresses this need and a timeframe for implementing the recommendations needs to be put in place. Speaking from his own experience in ALDP, Duffin stressed the need for task forces to take an evidence-based approach to selecting services
-    Alcohol: what existing budget is there for alcohol and what budget will be transferred for the implementation of the combined drug and alcohol strategy? Duffin pointed out that the health costs of alcohol use far exceed tax receipts from the drinks industry. Also, what role is envisaged for the voluntary sector with regard to alcohol? Duffin pointed out that merging drug and alcohol policies will mean treatment options, including residential services, will have to be enhanced to ensure polydrug users are not excluded.
-    Funding: the cuts since 2008 have resulted in services being cut and this has had a real impact on service users. At ALDP much of the progress made over the last 15 years is being lost and the service is ‘moving backwards’.
After coffee the conference heard four presentations on incorporating alcohol in prevention work.
Promoting community engagement in addressing alcohol issues
Community action seeks to change collective rather than individual behaviour. Because it impacts on the environment, it is a universal intervention. Mobilising a community to action on alcohol effectively anchors and maximises the work by actively involving local groups and exploiting existing networks. Anne Timoney of Community Action on Alcohol outlined the process, from introducing the concept to developing the action plan, implementing and evaluating. www.alcoholforum.org
Ballymun community alcohol strategy
A road to change: Ballymun Community Alcohol Strategy 2010–2016 aims to use a public health approach to reduce alcohol-related risk to the Ballymun community’s health, safety and well-being.Hugh Greaves, co-ordinator of the Ballymun LDTF, outlined the process whereby the strategy was developed, the principles underpinning the approach, and the contents  –  41 actions across six pillars:
1.     Supply reduction, availability and enforcement
2.     Community awareness
3.     Treatment and rehabilitation
4.     Prevention and education
5.     Harm reduction
6.     Policy and research 
Galway City alcohol strategy
The Galway City strategy to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm 2013–2017 focuses on four key areas – prevention; supply, access and availability; screening, treatment and support services; and research, monitoring and evaluation – and includes 40 associated actions. An annual action plan is developed, including commitments from a range of partners, groups and organisations for each proposed action, and, at the end of the year, a progress report is compiled. Among the achievements to date, Evelyn Fanning of HSE West highlighted increased public awareness of the issues, improved information and understanding of alcohol availability and advertising, and patterns of alcohol-related harm, and responses that have begun to have an effect on the level of alcohol-related problems. 
Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) initiative
HSM is a blogging website that encourages people to undertake a period of sobriety and reflect on the role alcohol plays in their life. Bloggers or ‘HSMers’ come from several countries but are predominantly Australians. They write blog posts, make videos and take pictures of their experiences as part of their participation. Ian Power of Spunout.ie described a study that aimed to conceptualise and evaluate the social impact of HSM. Analysis of the blog posts of 1,768 HSMers showed that over time they changed from being very self-focused, considering their own drinking and the views of peers, to reflecting on the role of alcohol in their lives, to finally taking a broader view of the role of alcohol in society and ways to help and support others in their personal HSM experiences. www.hellosundaymorning.org
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 49, Spring 2014
April 2014
Page Range
pp. 1-3
Health Research Board
Issue 49, Spring 2014
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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