Home > Responses to the new drugs strategy.

Dillon, Lucy (2017) Responses to the new drugs strategy. Drugnet ireland , Issue 63, Autumn 2017 , p. 8.

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A number of stakeholder agencies have published statements on the new national drug and alcohol strategy. These include: CityWide,1 Gay Health Network,2 Simon Communities3 and UISCE (Union for Improved Services, Communication and Education).4 The more health-led approach and the inclusion of alcohol in the strategy were widely welcomed. There were concerns, however, about how the strategy would be implemented in practice and the need for additional funding to do so. The statements are summarised below.

 

CityWide 1

CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign welcomed two elements of the strategy in particular: the establishment of a working group to look at alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use; and the commitment to an integrated drug and alcohol policy. However, it has a number of concerns relating to the implementation of the strategy.

 

Integrated drug and alcohol strategy: It expresses concern that while there have been Government commitments to a joint policy in the past, this has often been ‘over-stated’ and has not been delivered in practice. It notes the ongoing opposition of the alcohol industry.

 

Funding: CityWide is concerned there will not be enough investment in services to be able to deliver on the range of actions laid out in the three-year action plan embedded in the strategy. It highlights that many of the strategy’s actions involve the ‘expansion and/or development’ of existing services, but that services are already operating on budgets that have been subject to numerous cuts over the last six years. Significant investment would therefore be required if actions are to be delivered.

 

Interagency partnership: CityWide notes that interagency partnership has always been crucial to the implementation of Ireland’s drug strategies. While the new strategy says that it will remain a cornerstone of its implementation, CityWide argues that interagency partnership on drug issues ‘is no longer working effectively at either national, regional or local level’. It argues that Government departments and their agencies are where key policy decisions are now made, rather than within the interagency structures where communities are represented. For interagency partnership to work in practice, the new structures established by the strategy will need, from the very start, a ‘strong and proactive’ National Committee that ensures all stakeholders are held to account for their responsibilities in delivering on the strategy, and that the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces are adequately supported.

 

Causes of problem drug use: CityWide identifies one of the most significant barriers to delivering on the new strategy as a failure to address the underlying causes of ‘serious community drug problems’. It reiterates the fact that problem drug use continues to be concentrated in areas characterised by high levels of social and economic deprivation. Over time, the drug problem has become ‘chronic, deep rooted and embedded in these communities, impacting negatively on all aspects of community life’. Addressing the underlying issues causing drug use is essential ‘if we are serious about tackling the impact of problem drug use’.

 

Gay Health Network 2

The Gay Health Network (GHN) welcomed the specific mention, for the first time in the national strategy, of the need for targeted harm-reduction, education and prevention measures that are tailored towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. It highlights actions dealing with the issue of chemsex (the use of drugs for or during sex). First, the need to provide addiction supports in non-traditional settings with particular reference to chemsex, and that it hopes this ‘signals a widening of resource provision for services attempting to bridge the gap between sexual, mental and addiction health’. Second, the inclusion of chemsex as a topic to be considered by the working group examining the evidence base for early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends.

 

Simon Communities 3

Housing and homeless organisation, the Simon Communities, welcomed the new strategy, saying that the move to a more health-led approach will ‘save lives and reduce harm’, and that the inclusion of alcohol is ‘positive’. It notes in particular the introduction of the supervised injecting facilities. It welcomes the recognition in the strategy that people who are homeless are at a ‘far higher risk’ of problem drug use than those in secure housing and notes the complex relationship between homelessness and problematic drug and alcohol use. Both a harm reduction and recovery focus were identified by the Simon Communities as ‘at the heart of drug and homeless service provision’. It also notes the synergy with other Government strategies dealing with homelessness and that their successful delivery ‘depends not just on housing but also, crucially, on drug and alcohol, mental health, and community integration services being available’. While it welcomes the strategy and accompanying action plan, it calls for a more detailed implementation plan that would include targets and timelines ‘to enhance the Strategy’.

 

UISCE 4

UISCE welcomed the new strategy. Its statement focuses on how ‘excited’ it is that ‘for the first time the voice of people who use drugs in Ireland has been captured and included in the development of the National Drug Strategy’, as well as now being represented in the implementation structures of the strategy for the first time. As with CityWide, it welcomes in particular the action to explore the alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use. It also welcomes the establishment of a safe injecting facility, and the values of the strategy that see addiction as ‘a condition that requires compassion, understanding and seeing people as human beings’.

 

1 CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign (2017) Press release on the launch of the new national drugs strategy (NDS). https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27700/

2 Gay Health Network (2017) Gay Health Network statement on national drug strategy 2017­—2025. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27701/

3 Simon Communities of Ireland (2017) Simon Communities welcome national drugs strategy publication. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27702/

4 Drugs.ie (2017) UISCE reacts to the launch of the national drug strategy 2017—2025. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27703/

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 63, Autumn 2017
Date:November 2017
Page Range:p. 8
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 63, Autumn 2017
EndNote:View
Subjects:MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Political process > Advocacy
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy > Policy on substance use
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Programme planning, implementation, and evaluation > Programme planning (strategy)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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