Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.

Frances Fitzgerald


632 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated number of heroin addicts in the Dublin area; the number receiving treatment; and the plans to offer more widespread treatment. [20422/00]

Various estimates have been made of the number of opiate misusers in the country. Due to the illicit nature of drug misuse it is difficult to get a clear estimate of the extent of the problem. Estimates range from around 8,500 to 13,500. The ministerial task force suggested a figure of 8,000, confined mainly to Dublin city. The Health Research Board report on treated drug misuse in Ireland in 1998 gave a total of 5,076 treated cases in 1998 in the greater Dublin area. It must be emphasised, however, that this is the number of people receiving treatment and the number of people misusing drugs would be greatly in excess of this figure.

The number of people registered on the central methadone treatment list at the end of August 2000, who are receiving treatment for heroin addiction in the Eastern Regional Health Authority, was 4,725.

The provision of drug treatment services in the Dublin area is the statutory responsibility of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA. However, there has been extensive development of treatment facilities in the greater Dublin area in recent years. Services are provided at 53 treatment locations in the ERHA area with plans to establish others where the need for such services has been identified. The ERHA boards will continue to expand services with the objective of providing prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare services for everyone who needs such services. The Eastern Regional Health Authority's total budget for drugs and AIDS services in 2000 is over £22 million. Services being expanded include information, education and prevention services, increased detoxification, an in-patient stabilisation unit, expansion of the young person's programme, additional addiction centres, additional treatment places through general practitioners, satellite and mobile clinics, training and development, aftercare/rehabilitation, more key workers in the community, improved management of services and development of an information system.
The ERHA is aware of the need for rehabilitation and aftercare as part of an integrated programme of care for drug misusers. For this reason rehabilitation is given high priority and the expansion of rehabilitation services is taking place. I fully support these important developments as rehabilitation and aftercare are seen as a vital part of a continuum of services in the overall treatment of drug misusers to achieve the ultimate goal of a drug free lifestyle and to play a full role in society.
The Deputy will also be aware of the valuable contribution being made by local drugs task forces in providing a co-ordinated and integrated response in areas worst affected by the drugs problem.
My Department will continue to support health boards in expanding their range of services with the aim of having in place a continuum of care to which people using heroin will have immediate access whatever their place in the cycle of addiction. Thus, chaotic users should be able to avail of needle exchange and low threshold services while those who are highly motivated to give up their drug habit should have access to detoxification and support services such as counselling.
Health boards are committed to consultation with local groups regarding the establishment of drug treatment clinics, but more often than not they face huge local opposition. The protracted nature of local consultation and subsequent local opposition has slowed the development of new facilities, by years in some cases. Political and community support are required for the ERHA in its efforts to win the support of local groups and residents for the provision of appropriate drug treatment services where the need for such services has been identified.