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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue - Drug and Alcohol Task Forces.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue - Drug and Alcohol Task Forces. (10 Nov 2016)

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Deputy Seán Crowe: I have tabled this Topical Issue matter because I want to discuss with the Minister of State the challenges faced by drugs task forces across the State as they prepare their multiannual strategic action plans. The official model we are using is outdated. It is based on a an opiate and heroin addiction policies and procedures model of 20 years ago and does not take into account or have sufficient understanding of today's challenges and the polydrug nature of today's drug users.


 We would all accept that the drug problem has never been as bad as it is now. It is true to say that no town or village in Ireland does not have a drug problem. We do not seem to have any rural strategy on drugs.


 I attended a drug task force meeting during the week, during which we were told that 679 people died from drug-related deaths in the State in 2015. The frustration expressed at the meeting was that if this happened in another area, such as road deaths, there would be uproar. We are not good at finding out how many people have died. In some cases, people die from toxicity or suicide rather than drug use.


 The problem is much more overt nowadays. Many of those involved, such as runners, dealers, mules and those involved in intimidation are getting younger by the day. It is not surprising to see a ten year old child involved. There are no safe zones around schools, which are open territory, as is the Luas, bus routes, shopping centres, O'Connell Street and so on. In my constituency, An Garda Síochána Tallaght drugs unit comprised 31 people five years ago, but last year it was decreased to an all-time low of 16 members. The population is increasing, but the same level of services are in place and there is a large area to cover. The Tallaght drugs task force, of which I am a member, has seen its core funding slashed by successive Governments.


 An added difficulty is that Departments, which are supposed to be part of the pillars of the drug strategy, including the Departments of Health, Education and Skills and Social Protection, do not attend meetings. In some cases, there is difficulty in getting representatives from the Garda or local authorities to attend. Different task forces have different problems.


 Family support is supposed to be one of the pillars of the strategy, yet Tusla is not involved in discussions. The HSE attends many meetings, but again it depends on the task force. The issue involves more than one agency.


 One of the gaps in the strategy is that those who should be involved in it are not sitting round table. Drugs task forces now include alcohol in their remit, but no extra resources are provided for this extra work. There is a difficulty with addiction services. There is a gap in the service in terms of councillors. For example, there is one councillor in Tallaght. Needle exchange programmes are in place, but some community-based programmes have been told that insurance costs have increased from €1,500 to between €7,000 and €11,000. That is totally unacceptable.


 There is a policy of ignoring the problem. The problem exists, but we tend to ignore the difficulties. I ask the Minister of State to respond to some of the issues I have raised.

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