Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Funding for local drug task forces is €3 million less than it was ten years ago, despite repeated promises from successive Governments. As a former director of the Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force, I have seen at first hand how addiction services have tried to do more with less. Drug and alcohol task forces need multi-annual funding to provide the services their communities desperately need. In 2019, almost €69 million was seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB. This money originated in areas with high levels of deprivation, such as my area in north Clondalkin. The deprivation and poverty were caused by systemic failures in Government policies.
Drug intimidation can take many forms. One can walk around some previously quiet estates in Clondalkin and see drug dealing taking place with relative impunity. Neighbours are absolutely terrified. The money these unscrupulous drug dealers are getting is money that, hopefully, is eventually seized by the CAB. This money must be put back into these communities. The money that goes to the CAB originates from the purses of mothers who are paying drug dealers due to intimidation. It should be ring-fenced to build resilience in communities. It should not be used to replace current funding or as an excuse not to increase further funding down the road. It should be used to resource community initiatives in the communities that have been failed by successive Governments. Has the Government even considered putting the money that has been ripped from our communities directly back into them?
People who have dual diagnosis often fall between the gaps. Addiction and ill mental health often occur hand in hand. An addiction may lead to the onset of a mental health issue, or a mental health issue can lead to people using substances as a coping mechanism. Due to the inadequacies in the State's mental health system, people can turn to drink and drugs to bring calm to an anxious inner world. Deputy Gould and I have legislation, the Health (Amendment) (Dual Diagnosis: No Wrong Door) Bill 2021, that is due to come before the House on Second Stage, and I will ask the Government to support it when it is before the House.
Finally, one has only to walk through parks and estates to see discarded nitrous oxide canisters, which are also known as "silver bullets". As community structures for children, such as sports, schools and youth clubs, have been decreased due to the pandemic and restrictions, the use of nitrous oxide has increased. The problem is that children are playing Russian roulette with this substance. They do not know how it will affect them until they take it. What measures has the Minister of State taken to combat this? Does he still believe it is just a Dublin problem, as he stated previously?