Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

National Drugs Strategy: Minister of State at the Department of Health

9:30 am

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

In his opening statement the Minister of State said we do not have a database for the number of people using heroin. I know he received a copy of draft legislation from the Ana Liffey project about safe injection rooms. I support that.

I get many calls from parents telling me about the needles and drug-related things that are thrown all over the place when they bring their children for a walk in the park or to a playground and in school grounds. On a number of occasions I have met parents whose young children have picked up syringes. That is a real problem, particularly around the inner city. I hope the Minister of State will give due consideration to the draft legislative proposals from the Ana Liffey drug project because I think this is a step in the right direction not only for the people living in the area but for the users. It might also give the Minister some significant data on the numbers who use heroin.

I continually make the point on the social, personal and health education curriculum. I honestly think we need to change the model and look at ways that we can identify in the classroom how drug abuse is destroying young people's lives. We need to be more effective on the ground and get the message out. If young people at school do not get a graphic lesson on the effects of drugs, when they are out of school and into their 30s they are lost in the system and one cannot deal with them. Building self esteem comes not only from parents and education but from the community. I think that is very important.

I have a number of questions related to the task forces. Deputy Dara Calleary tabled a parliamentary question in June about the national drugs strategy budget. We hear all the time about the reduction in the money allocated to the community, but the reply to this parliamentary question included a table setting out the funding from 2010 to 2015. In my area, six different bodies receive local drug task funding and yet after huge sums of money have gone to them, we still have a significant drug problem. I wonder if this is due to the duplication of services. In some areas I see the same people accessing all of the services and nobody knowing who is doing what. The money is going into the services but nobody is tracking who is availing of the services. The services are duplicated in each of the areas.

I have a bugbear about young pregnant women with addiction issues who give birth in maternity hospitals to babies with addiction to alcohol and to drugs. We need to encourage these young pregnant women and help them because the substance abuse is not only killing them but affecting their unborn children. I have reservations around how these young women who have both alcohol and drug addictions are being treated when they go into the maternity hospitals.


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