Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Drug Treatment Programmes Funding

4:30 pm

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

I have a closing statement but I will not use it; I will speak directly to Deputy O'Dowd and respond to the issues he raised and the remarks he made.

I am steadfast in my commitment to the national drugs strategy, as Minister of State and implementation lead for the strategy on the oversight committee. In recent weeks, a significant number of people have been addressing this issue, not only because of the reviews of the task forces on the ground but also in general. I acknowledge that money for the national drugs strategy has not been forthcoming for some time. When we launched the strategy two years ago, €7 million was allocated to its implementation. I want to work in partnership with the HSE and the drugs task forces. Nobody is falling down in the context of providing leadership - not my Department and certainly not the Minister. I spoke to him in recent days about the relevance of drug addiction and how important it is to get to the heart of communities in order to try to understand the issues that are arising, not only with criminal activity but also in terms of understanding what is happening in people's homes.

With my background, I am very familiar with the issues. I have seen addiction as a big destroyer of lives from an early age. I have no problem meeting anybody. I have an amount of money to give to people. With the support of the drugs task forces money was reallocated to specific projects. Thirteen drugs task forces came back with specific projects they wanted to pursue. We funded them and two of them have been in the Drogheda area.

I will relay to the Minister the message about meeting these people. It is not necessary to put it in writing; I have no problem meeting them. If we give out money to task forces or the HSE, the most important thing for me, as Minister of State, is the governance of task forces and the HSE and their accountability. In recent weeks I have received ten different letters outlining issues people have with distribution of funding among task forces on the ground. I need to deal with them as the Minister of State. I will not stand over giving money to projects if the money is not used specifically to deal with young people and all people in addiction. This money should be going into addiction services. As far as I am concerned, when money goes to a task force it needs to be focused on those people on the ground.

I will without doubt meet the people the Deputy mentioned. I will raise the possibility of doing so with the Minister. I cannot vouch for his attendance at any meeting, but I will certainly meet them.

I reiterate that I am committed to the national drugs strategy. My leadership of it is beyond doubt. As stated previously, I regret that nine former Ministers wrote a letter without coming to me to ask what is happening out there. We must work in partnership. It is not about the HSE, the partnerships or the Department of Health. We all have to work as one to resolve the issues in our communities because drugs are killing people. I get the message that Deputy O'Dowd is sending.


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