Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.

Tony Gregory


537 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will give details of the treatment services available to young persons under 16 years of age who are addicted to drugs. [19451/00]

The provision of drug treatment services for young persons under 16 years of age is a matter for health boards in the first instance. Having consulted with the boards I have obtained the following information.

The incidence of under 16 year olds presenting for treatment as a result of addiction to drugs, as opposed to experimenting or dabbling, is quite rare, but where it occurs the appropriate services are available.

In areas outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority persons under 16 years of age are referred to the child and adolescent psychiatric services. In general the treatment required can be provided on an out-patient basis with counselling and support services provided through addiction outreach workers and addiction counsellors. Where residential treatment is required the Aislinn Centre in Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, provides this service to young people from at least four of the health boards.

The Southern Health Board established a specialised unit within Arbour House to address issues for young people. This is a structured out-patient model and involves the clients each day from 9 am to 5 pm with a planned weekend programme. A plan to support a voluntary group in the establishment of residential facilities for boys under 18 is now at an advanced stage. It is hoped that a service agreement will be in place by the end of the year.

In the Mid-Western Health Board the health promotion unit has an advice, information and counselling service operating in its Sláinte health advice centre.

If a person under 16 requires treatment parental consent must be obtained. In the main a family GP will be the primary source of referral to the drug treatment services. When the chief medical officer in my Department wrote to all GPs last year in relation to drug misuse he included a list of the drugs co-ordinators in each health board for their reference. In the case of heroin addiction the young person will be sent for psychiatric assessment. The first line of treatment is counselling and in-patient detoxification, if necessary. Young persons under 16 years of age are given priority in all treatment centres and satellite clinics with immediate referral to a consultant psychiatrist. There are no waiting lists for treatment for people of this age.

The drug treatment centre in Pearse Street provides specialist assessment and clinical intervention, as agreed by a consultant psychiatrist. In the centre group support and a counselling service are provided to young drug users and their families.

In all area health boards in the Eastern Regional Health Authority young people are initially assessed by an addiction counsellor in their own local area. If psychiatric assessment is required the young person is then seen by a consultant psychiatrist, who in turn refers them for further counselling, detoxification or other treatment as appropriate. Special programmes for under 16 year olds are run at the Crinan project and Domville House. If detoxification is required this is provided at either Cuan Dara in Cherry Orchard hospital or in Beaumont hospital. Following detoxification counselling and outreach services in the local area link with the young person and key family members.
In all health boards the boards' education offices in association with other community and statutory organisations provide education and prevention programmes in the national and second level schools.