Seanad debates

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Commencement Matters

Drug and Alcohol Task Forces

10:30 am

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Offaly, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Devine for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity to update the Seanad on the current position regarding the post of co-ordinator of the south inner city drug and alcohol task force. The Minister of State with responsibility for this area, Deputy Catherine Byrne, asked me to convey her apologies as she is unavoidably detained elsewhere this morning.

I emphasise this Government's commitment and ongoing support, in line with the national drugs strategy, for initiatives to tackle the drug problem. Reflecting the Government's commitment to addressing the drugs and alcohol issue, an additional €3 million in funding has been allocated to the Health Service Executive this year for addiction services. The increased budget includes funding for a pilot supervised injection facility, more detoxification places and improved access to treatment services for those aged under 18 years.

I am very aware of the key role drug and alcohol task forces play in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in their areas. Task forces are also key players in co-ordinating action at local level to ensure there is a targeted response to the problem of substance misuse in local communities. Drug and alcohol task force co-ordinators are, in the main, employed by the Health Service Executive.

On the specific issues raised by the Senator, I am advised by the HSE that the co-ordinator post for the south inner city drug and alcohol task force has not been suppressed. I understand funding was made available by the HSE to fill this post on a three days per week basis from June 2016 to December 2016 and that, since January 2017, funding has been made available by the HSE for the post to be filled on a five days per week basis. I am pleased to learn that HSE addiction services has agreed to provide funding via a section 39 grant aid agreement on an ongoing basis to the south inner city drug and alcohol task force to maintain this post. This funding will be paid to a voluntary organisation in the south inner city which has a hosting arrangement with the south inner city task force. The HSE has informed me that it intends to review this arrangement on a regular basis in line with the conditions of funding. I hope this information will be welcome news to Senator Devine and others.

The Government is committed to putting in place a new national drugs strategy this year to provide leadership and a renewed response to address the drug problem. It is expected that the new strategy will build on the harm reducing approach of previous policies. The process of developing a new strategy has involved a wide-ranging national debate on our approach to the drug and alcohol problem, with more than 2,000 public submissions received on the issue.

The Senator also asked a number of specific questions which only the Health Service Executive is in a position to answer. I will ensure these are conveyed to the HSE when I return to my office and ensure it reverts to the Senator with responses. However, I expect the task force will have liaised with the HSE and will have some understanding as to the reason the decision was made. If that is not the case, I will ensure the Senator is given a response.


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