Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
I thank the Ministers of State for coming to the House to speak on this important issue. I speak as a former member of a ministerial drugs task force. I empathise with some of the points raised by people who are directly involved on the ground in dealing with the addiction issues. Very often they have a different perspective than that which we as legislators have. I always saw methadone as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Unfortunately, over the years, the aim of its use has become vague. We need to go back to base on that. I do not agree with my colleague, Deputy Gino Kenny, on legalisation. We have too many gateway drugs. These may not be the worst substances but they do lead to others which are serious. The late Martin Naughton used to say if a person has a mental or physical disability, they certainly have a problem, if they have a mental or physical disability and an addiction, they have a problem but if someone has all those and is homeless as well, they will really have a serious problem. He was correct and I pay tribute to Martin Naughton and the work he did for people with disabilities for many years.
I ask the Ministers of State to give an indication on whether the programme for Government commitments on harm reduction programmes can be kept on track. I emphasise harm reduction in particular. It is about reducing harm rather than resolution but we have to start somewhere. Is the Minister of State satisfied he is on track and will continue to make a meaningful and positive impact in reducing harm, and that he has the resources to do so?
Others have mentioned residential places for treatment. It is impossible to get a residential place for a person who has an addiction. If they have a mental health problem and other problems, and also have an addiction, we cannot find places for them. The services are coming down with requests making it very difficult for those at the coalface, providing the direct service to do the job they are expected to do.