Home > Committee of Public Accounts Debate - vote 21 - prisons.

[Oireachtas] Committee of Public Accounts Debate - vote 21 - prisons. (17 Jan 2019)

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Deputy Jonathan O'Brien I notice that the opiate programme has seen a decrease in the number of people who are accessing it but we have seen an increase in the number of people who are accessing addiction counselling. Is the opiate substitution programme available in all prisons?


Ms Caron McCaffrey It is available in all prisons with the exception of our open centres. We do not have methadone maintenance in either Loughan House or Shelton Abbey. It available across the estate.


The reduction is actually related to a reduction within the community of those availing of that form of treatment. So, on any given day, we have approximately 530 prisoners on methadone stabilisation treatment within the Prison Service. We provided that service to almost 1,700 prisoners in 2017, which is 17% of the population who avail of methadone substitution treatment in Ireland. So a very significant contribution is made by the Irish Prison Service in providing drug treatment within the country.


Deputy Jonathan O'Brien So the opiate programme obviously will deal with heroin addiction. An increasing number of people have a serious addiction to prescription drugs when they enter prison. What provisions are put in place for those individuals? Obviously they would not avail of an opiate programme. If one has a serious prescription addiction the come-down or going cold turkey in a prison or any other setting can be quite dangerous for that individual. What procedures are put in place for individuals who have an addiction? How do we assess on intake what a person's addiction is? I ask Ms McCaffrey to give us some information on this matter. I will leave it at that, Chairman, and will move on.


Ms Caron McCaffrey Obviously, on committal, all of our prisoners are interviewed by both a nurse and a doctor, and we seek to engage with them around any addictions they may have be it in relation to illicit or prescription drugs or any alcohol addictions.


A range of services are in place to provide drug treatment programmes to prisoners within our care. The Deputy mentioned the addiction counselling service that we have got in place. That is run by Merchant's Quay Ireland.


The service is very successful and there is a significant uptake in respect of it. In addition, we have a nine-week drug treatment programme which operates in Mountjoy Prison. The programme forms part of a broader unit within the prison that has 50 beds available to assist people with drug treatment.


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