Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 3 - Drug treatment programmes (funding) [27727/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 3 - Drug treatment programmes (funding) [27727/15]. (09 Jul 2015)

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3. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the extent of Government funding to drug addiction services and alcohol addiction services; his views that there are adequate services and resources for those seeking to address their alcohol issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27727/15]


Deputy Leo Varadkar: Individuals with an addiction to drugs and alcohol can access the full range of general health services including primary care, secondary care, social care and mental health services. There are also specific services for addiction. Health Service Executive funding of €109 million is provided for alcohol and drug addiction services in 2015.


People who present for alcohol addiction treatment are offered a range of interventions based on the four tier model of treatment intervention. The quality of client care remains a central focus of the addiction service. The HSE is aware of the growing need for interventions to address those addicted to drugs and alcohol. The issue of support for those with alcohol addiction will also be considered as part of national strategy development, most particularly in developing the new drugs strategy and in the forthcoming review of A Vision for Change. The resources available to address substance misuse will be kept under review in the context of the overall resources available to the health services.


It is essential to have a public health policy response which seeks to reduce the number of people engaged in the harmful use of alcohol. The Government approved the general scheme of a public health (alcohol) Bill in February. The scheme includes provisions for minimum unit pricing, health labelling on products that contain alcohol, restrictions on the advertising and marketing of alcohol and the regulation of sports sponsorship. Work is ongoing on the preparation of the legislation and it is expected that the Bill will be published in the autumn. The other measures set out in the steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy were endorsed by the Government. The first annual report on the national substance misuse strategy is due later this year. A range of services is provided for those with drug and alcohol addictions. Work is under way to review these services to ensure that they are developed in line with evolving needs and best practice.


Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Alcohol-related harm costs the country €3.7 billion, of which €1.2 billion is due to alcohol-related crime. Some 97% of public order offences recorded on the PULSE system are due to alcohol. These figures do not include the human cost to the individual and his or her family. I recently met a group of people in recovery who outlined the cost of their alcoholism. These costs include €100 every time they presented to an emergency department, €1,000 per night when they were hospitalised and additional sums for GP visits and medication, as well as the costs associated with accidents and being out of work. These expenses create further stress for themselves and their families. Now that they are in recovery, they are back at work and paying taxes. Some of them run businesses and employ people. Furthermore, they are also supporting others in recovery. There are also knock-on effects for their families and communities.


I ask the Minister to give specific details on the range of interventions available. If individuals present to an emergency department with an alcohol-related illness, to where are they referred and what information are they given?


Deputy Leo Varadkar: If individuals present to an emergency department, they are treated as an emergency and their injuries or other acute medical illnesses are dealt with. Two thirds of patients who attend emergency departments are discharged and the remaining third are admitted. If they are admitted, I imagine they would receive some sort of referral to the addiction services while they are in hospital but they are probably not referred if they are discharged because that is how an emergency department appropriately works. It would be a matter for the patient's GP or regular doctor to make the necessary referral. The purpose of an emergency department is to deal with the presenting complaint or emergency, while the underlying conditions should be dealt with by the community or admitting doctor.


The budget for the HSE's addiction services has increased slightly this year from €86.122 million to €86.279 million. Funding for the HSE's drugs and alcohol task force projects has also increased slightly this year.


Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: I do not believe the medical model provides the sole answer because the majority of the two thirds who are discharged will end up back in the emergency department. There are very few projects and facilities on the northside of Dublin. One of the few services that exists on the northside manages to cover the cost of qualified therapists and counsellors, its premises, its information technology equipment and its other overheads on a budget of €150,000 per year. Despite working actively with 74 clients, it has no funding from the HSE. This service is working and similar services should be established in every town in this country.


I have tabled a later question on the €2.2 billion raised in taxes on alcohol products. Can some of this money be allocated specifically for treatment services? Proposals are being considered for the minimum pricing of alcohol but could we set a maximum price for soft drinks? When people go out for drinks sometimes the cost of alcohol is the same if not cheaper than that of a soft drink.


Deputy Leo Varadkar:  I am not familiar with the particular project mentioned by Deputy O'Sullivan but it is open to any project to apply for funding from the HSE or the local drugs task force. I do not know the people involved and I do not dispute what they say but I have never met a group that did not tell me that its service was great. That is the nature of these things. It is important that any project is objectively assessed, and that is where the HSE's addiction services come in to allocate its budget as efficiently and effectively as possible, and to assess how it can be best spent and best delivered.

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