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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 770 - Drug treatment programmes policy [29755/14].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 770 - Drug treatment programmes policy [29755/14]. (08 Jul 2014)


770. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Health if he will refocus spending in the area of drug policy on public health interventions in view of the need for comprehensive needle and syringe programme coverage, and the fact that the pharmacy needle exchange programme does not meet the needs of all that require needle and syringe programme services; the way he will increase needle and syringe programme services coverage here; if he will introduce medically supervised injecting centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29755/14]

 

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): In line with the Programme for Government and Action 34 of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, it is Government policy to expand the availability of needle exchange services. Such services greatly reduce the risk of the use of contaminated injecting equipment through providing sterilised needles, syringes and associated injecting paraphernalia. They also reduce the dangers posed by discarded needles through the strong emphasis on the exchange of used supplies for new. As well as the direct benefits of needle exchange services, they also bring people into contact with other services and increase the possibilities for further engagement aimed at reducing heroin use.

Needle exchange services are broadly available in the Dublin area through the HSE and voluntary sector organisations. The Pharmacy Needle Exchange Programme (PNEP) has continued to expand needle exchange services outside the Dublin area creating accessible harm reduction services within the community pharmacy setting. By the end of 2013, there were 97 pharmacies participating in the PNEP. A further 30 pharmacies have been recruited to the programme in 2014 bringing the total participating to 127.

My Department has no plans to introduce medically supervised injecting centres at present. Rather my focus is on ensuring that there is an increased emphasis on providing the opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use, through drug treatment and rehabilitation, to a drug-free life where that is achievable.

The HSE have completed a review of needle exchange provision in Ireland, which is due for publication shortly.

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