Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 5 - National drugs rehabilitation framework [27728/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 5 - National drugs rehabilitation framework [27728/15]. (09 Jul 2015)

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5. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health his views that the national drugs rehabilitation implementation committee framework is responding effectively to the drug and alcohol issues present in Irish society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27728/15]


My question relates to the national drugs rehabilitation implementation committee, NDRIC, framework. Does the Minister believe the committee is responding effectively to the drugs and alcohol issues that continue to present in the country?


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): The national drugs rehabilitation implementation committee, chaired by the HSE, has developed a national drugs rehabilitation framework. As Deputy O'Sullivan is aware, people in recovery have complex needs and may require multiple interventions from a range of agencies to assist them in their recovery. The aim of the framework is to provide a continuum of care for the recovering drug user through promoting a more integrated and person-centred approach to rehabilitation based on shared care planning. The roll-out of the framework is currently being advanced through the HSE's addiction services and the local and regional drug and alcohol task forces.


An evaluation of the framework, which was piloted in ten sites during 2013, found that both service users and the agencies involved in service provision, expressed a high level of enthusiasm for the framework. Those participating generally agreed that the objectives of the framework could be achieved if all agencies were committed to inter-agency working. The committee has developed national protocols under the framework to facilitate inter-agency co-operation. In addition, competency based training is currently being designed which focuses on key working and care planning. The intention is to provide training to treatment providers and relevant agencies in 12 task force areas by the end of the year, with the remainder to receive training next year.


As Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, I am leading the development of a new national drugs strategy after 2016. The process will involve a comprehensive consultation with key stakeholders and the public on the current national drugs policy and future priorities. This will provide an opportunity to ensure that our strategic approach into the future continues to be firmly focused on recovery. I have also asked my Department to examine the feasibility of utilising social impact bonds as a funding model to improve both treatment and rehabilitation service outcomes. The outcome of this work will inform decisions as to the viability of this approach to maximising the social benefits which the national drugs strategy seeks to achieve.


Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: The Minister of State heard the reality when he attended the North Inner City Drugs Task Force this week, which is that an increasing range of drugs is appearing on the streets, in particular the benzodiazepines, Z drugs, zopiclone and zimovane. He heard about the massive profits involved. It is possible to make €1,000 a week, which beats a summer job packing shelves in one of the local supermarkets. The Garda is powerless to deal with the Z drugs. There is a need for a personal detox from benzodiazepines before people can access the official programme. We know about the street crime, drug paraphernalia and intimidation and the length of time people are on methadone. In 2010 a Department of Health recommendation suggested suboxone would be used as an alternative to methadone because fewer overdoses occur on it. We are also aware of the housing and homelessness problems and the dual diagnosis of people presenting with mental health issues, not to mention those in prison who are addicted but sometimes manage to mask that addiction when they are in prison but one must ask what they come out to.


I have to ask where is the role of the national drugs rehabilitation implementation committee in all of this. As people on the ground are telling me, the situation is getting worse and there is no urgency in addressing it.


Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin:  I appreciate what the Deputy has said. We had an interesting conversation at the North Inner City Drugs Task Force. I have visited various drugs task forces around the country, particularly in the Dublin area, since my appointment to this post. I share the Deputy's concern about how this situation is changing, in that it is worsening and becoming more acute in certain parts of the country and among certain age cohorts.


Today I will take part in a discussion at a joint meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children and the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on the issue of decriminalisation of drugs, on which the justice committee wants to initiate a public consultation. In that, I have a lengthy contribution to make in regard to many of the issues the Deputy has raised. I am also proposing to have a conference at the end of this month in the Mansion House, with the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, in order to bring together the drugs task forces and people who are working in this sector, because I do not consider that I can wait for the review of the national drugs strategy in order to get a proper snapshot in time as to the nature of the problem we have in Ireland at the moment. That is on 29 July, and I would appreciate the Deputy's attendance and input into that conference.


Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: I will give the Minister of State an example. The Irish Medicines Board reacted very quickly when fake Viagra appeared on the streets. We need the same urgency with these drugs. As the Minister of State knows, the hands of gardaí are tied because these are controlled drugs, and we know that as soon as they are controlled another one will appear. Therefore, there is a need for urgency each time one of these drugs appears. We must ensure the legislation is in place so gardaí can tackle this immediately.


The rehabilitation posts that had been promised through the HSE, which would ensure consistency and quality of service provision, have not appeared. Prevention and education is a particular baby of mine. Again, we do not see enough urgency when it comes to that and to listening to the voices of young people. There is a suggestion that recovery should become the sixth pillar of the national drugs strategy and, again, I hope that will emerge. While we know that harm reduction measures, including medically supervised injecting rooms, on which we had a presentation recently, are a possibility - we hope it will go forward - recovery is still the optimum. I would hope to see that as the sixth pillar.


Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: I agree with everything the Deputy has said. In regard to controlled substances, I found quite disturbing what Inspector Des McTiernan of the inner city drugs task force had to say about the mother who told him it would be almost impossible for him to convince her child to get a minimum wage job in Dunnes when there is €1,000 a week to be made selling certain substances on the street corners of the inner city. We have a misuse of drugs Bill in front of the House this year and we can use that vehicle to address many of the issues the Deputy has raised. Certainly, the prevention and education element is crucial. We have to get away from the idea of victim blaming of young people who have inherited this problem that we have passed on to them. We have to have a more expansive idea of how we can engage and connect with young people. The schools system is part of that, but it is not the whole answer because children and young people do not live in schools and are influenced by many of the things that happen around them.

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