Thursday, 10 September 2020
Public Health, Well-being and National Drugs Strategy: Statements
Louise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
In his opening statement, the Minister of State mentioned that persons running recovery support meetings should proceed with extra caution because people with addiction problems are more vulnerable. That really worries me because the people attending these meetings are in recovery. They have managed to get themselves into a situation where they need the meetings for support but they are no more vulnerable than the Minister of State or me. They could be people who have gone 20, 30 or 40 years since they last had a drink or gambled. They are no more vulnerable than the Minister of State or me and yet the first time he mentions them, he chooses to pigeonhole them, to call them vulnerable, to say they are somehow other. That might explain the difficulties that Teachta Gould has had in dealing with the Minister of State and getting him to actually understand what the issues are. It is a little bit like how the Minister of State did not understand that nitrous oxide was a problem outside Dublin. That was, by the way, very insulting to Dublin people but also to people in Limerick, Cork, Galway and everywhere else who are dealing with it because they see clearly that while the Minister of State might have an interest in some aspects of his job, this does not seem to be a priority for him.
According to the HSE, there are only 665 treatment and detoxification beds across the community. That is down from 787 in February 2017. We lost the Keltoi residential treatment centre recently and we do not have a date for it opening. An assurance has been given by the Minister of State's office that it is going to be opened. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State but without as date, that assurance is utterly meaningless. I cannot stay for the Minister of State's closing remarks but I will be watching. I hope he uses his time to give a date for the reopening of the Keltoi facility.
Covid-19 has fundamentally changed how we do things because it has to. We know that. Social distancing and the public health guidance has meant that many treatment facilities are facing unchanged overheads and massively reduced capacity. As such we need a commitment from the Minister of State that he is going to be able to shore up that funding to ensure the small amount of facilities available can remain open. There are many facilities which have kept their clients on longer than perhaps would be the normal practice because they recognise how vulnerable they are and they know their clients need that. I commend those facilities on doing it but they are swimming against the tide and the Minister of State needs to see that. They have the impression that the Minister of State is not helping them. The Minister of State has not been in the role very long and some of the statements he has made thus far would give them cause to be very concerned.
In the Minister of State's closing statement he should give a date for the reopening of the Keltoi facility, if he can.