Written answers

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Drugs in Prisons

9:00 pm

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North, Sinn Fein)
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Question 61: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number on a duration of waiting lists for drugs related services in prison and the steps he will be take to address current breaks in supports experienced during the transition from prison based to community based services. [28293/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Irish Prison Service as part of their policy "Keeping Drugs Out of Prison" continue to expand the range of drug treatment services available in prisons. Significant investment has been committed in recent years to respond to addiction issues in the prison system. Drug rehabilitation programmes for prisoners involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non statutory organisations. Anyone seeking drug treatment is assessed and an opinion is formed as to the most appropriate treatment and arising from that necessary actions are taken which can include referral to a particular service.

I wish to inform the Deputy that it is not possible to provide details as requested due to the multifaceted approach taken by the Irish Prison Service and external agencies to address substance misuse issues within the prisons.

As part of the assessment process on committal, prisoners giving a history of opiate use and testing positive for opioids are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification if clinically indicated. At that stage or at any time during their incarceration healthcare staff are available to discuss other treatment options. There were 2487 treatment episodes using methadone substitution in 2009 which has increased from 1579 since 2006. Prisoners also have access to a range of medical and rehabilitative services such as psychosocial services and 'work and training' options, which assist in addressing their substance misuse issues.

Currently the Irish Prison Service provides drug treatment for in excess of 650 prisoners nationally per month. Methadone maintenance treatment in Irish prisons such as Mountjoy, Wheatfield and Cloverhill provide levels of coverage comparable to some of the highest levels of provision of methadone treatment in other European prisons. The Irish Prison Service has identified and treated almost 31% of all new entrants to the Central Treatment List in 2009. As such prisons play a leading role engaging new patients into drug treatment services.

In Mountjoy, in excess of 250 prisoners are currently on methadone substitution treatment. Mountjoy has initiated a programme involving addiction nurses, professional drug treatment pharmacy service, and a clinical addiction team with consultant oversight. This has resulted in a more streamlined service, better assessment and through care outcomes.

As part of the National Drugs Strategy (interim) 2009 - 2016 a number of actions have been identified including Action 43 which provides (and I quote): "Continue the expansion of treatment, rehabilitation and other health and social services in prisons. Develop an agreed protocol for the seamless provision of treatment services as a person moves between prison (including prisoners on remand) and the community".

Irish Prison Service Healthcare staff work closely with community based addiction services to facilitate continuity of methadone substitution treatment between prison and community for prisoners post release. The development of drug treatment services in prisons have contributed to a significant reduction in the incidence of post release overdose as there is a strong emphasis on continuity of care between prison services and community services.

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