Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 2 - Drug treatment programmes [14806/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 2 - Drug treatment programmes [14806/15]. (16 Apr 2015)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

2. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if it is the case that the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo has resulted in a crisis in the executive's counselling services and dangerously high caseloads; that certain individual addiction counsellors in the executive working in the Dublin region are tasked with over 200 client cases; that no new counsellors have been appointed in the past year; that this is the first Government in 21 years not to have a Minister with responsibility for dealing with the issue of drug abuse; that the Government has presided over a 37% cut in drug rehabilitation services in the past five years; that there has been a failure to fill the 1,000 ring-fenced places for drug rehabilitation participants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14806/15]


Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I again point to the fact that there is no designated Minister with responsibility for dealing with the issue of drug abuse and seek to highlight the level of cutbacks in drug addiction services in the past five years, the HSE recruitment and replacement embargo, the reduction in the number of women accessing addiction services, the embargo on the recruitment of addiction counsellors in the HSE, the restrictions and difficulties experienced by support workers and the restrictions on access to rehabilitation schemes.


Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I am advised by the HSE that there are three addiction counsellor posts vacant in the Dublin region. Recently, these positions were offered to candidates on the relevant HSE national recruitment service panel. As no candidate accepted the offer of work in the Dublin area, a recruitment competition specifically to fill these vacancies is under consideration by the HSE. The ending of the moratorium on recruitment announced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in budget 2015 will give the HSE greater autonomy to manage its staffing levels within the overall pay framework.


Average current counselling caseloads within the addiction service are dependent on where a clinic is situated. The HSE has indicated that the average caseload ranges from 25 to 50 individuals and that there are no addiction counsellors with caseloads in excess of 200 clients.


Drug-specific community employment schemes make a significant contribution to the rehabilitation of recovering drug users. At the end of December 2014 there were 936 referred clients in drug rehabilitation places, which is close to full capacity. In any given year participants may exit for a variety of reasons, but there is a cycle of places becoming vacant and being filled on an ongoing basis. Despite the economic downturn, cross-departmental provision for drugs programmes continues at a significant level, with over €240 million allocated for drugs initiatives last year. An extra €2.1 million has been provided in the HSE national budget for measures to target vulnerable drug users in 2015, in line with the Government's ongoing commitment to the national drugs strategy. This additional funding will support the expansion of residential detoxification and rehabilitation services, the continued provision of needle exchange services outside Dublin and a demonstration study for the use of naloxone in the prevention of opioid overdose. This initiative forms part of a major effort to reduce drug-related deaths by increasing access to naloxone for non-medical staff, such as the families or friends of a drug user.


I am fully committed to the drugs brief, and am eager to tackle the issues in the area in as comprehensive a way as possible. My Department is beginning work on the development of a new national drugs strategy for the period after 2016, and as Minister with lead responsibility I will play an active role in the development of the strategy. I look forward to engaging with all interested parties on the matter.......

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