Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Drug Treatment Programmes Funding

4:20 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne, to the House to again discuss the serious drug addiction problem in Drogheda, County Louth. As my colleague, Deputy Smyth, who is present, is aware, today we learned of serious and significant problems being experienced by community drugs services in the areas. It is a very difficult situation, particularly for the voluntary groups which run and administer those services. There is a crisis in funding and confidence which needs to be addressed at a meeting with the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, and the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. All Deputies and Senators who represent counties Louth, Meath, Cavan or Monaghan know this is a matter of extreme urgency. I will follow up the matter with a written request. My primary reason for tabling this Topical Issue matter is that there is a significant, serious and urgent need for further resources to tackle the prevalent drug problem in Drogheda and east Meath in light of increasing drug seizures.

In the past month alone, €5 million worth of drugs have been seized in the county by the Garda. We are thankful for its intervention. Two weeks ago, €1.3 million worth of cocaine was seized 2 miles outside my home town. Those in our community who are dependent on cocaine are seeking further supply or, alternatively, treatment and help. However, they have nowhere to go; there are no support services and that is at the heart of the problem.

I very much welcome the decision of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, supported by the Taoiseach and the Government, to significantly increase the number of gardaí in Drogheda. An additional 25 full-time permanent gardaí have been stationed there as a result of the crime and other problems caused by the drug war and problems. That step has been very relevant, important and successful. At least 14 people have been arrested and brought before the courts. They will be tried in due course.

The issue is that there has been no parallel increase in drug treatment services. Thankfully, the criminal justice system is working very well and efficiently. However, the HSE and the health board are not. The Minister of State visited the Red Door project three times and is very much aware of the problems there. A former colleague of the Acting Chairman, Deputy Broughan, and mine, Senator Nash, noted that if visits by Ministers to the Red Door project meant it was getting money, the service would have millions in funding. Unfortunately, its budget has not been increased. I acknowledge the interest and awareness of the Minister of State in the project and her concern for it, but its budget has not changed. It is unacceptable to the people of Drogheda and those running the Red Door that there has not been a determined and resourced fight to meet the needs of those who require treatment and supports. According to the family addiction support network for the north east, including County Louth, the region suffers from long waiting lists, a paucity of community treatment, insufficient counselling services, a lack of dual diagnosis in mental health services, insufficient methadone prescribing GPs and very few family support services. It further notes that participants spoke of a perceived lack of professional standards, accountability and transparency among some treatment services. There is a real crisis which needs to be addressed through proper funding from the Minister of State and her Department.


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