Written Answers. - National Drugs Strategy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

342 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the additional resources his Department will allocate to fight the significant increase in cocaine use in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3824/03]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001-2008. The strategy aims to tackle the drug problem in the most comprehensive way ever undertaken in this country and contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

My Department also has responsibility for the work of the local drugs task forces which were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. Currently, there are 14 local drugs task forces – 12 in Dublin, one in Cork, and one in Bray, which was designated an LDTF area in 2000.

The role of the LDTFs is to prepare local action plans after an assessment of the extent of use in the local area and the service gaps that need to be filled. The plans include a range of measures in relation to treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local supply. In addition, the LDTFs provide a mechanism for the co-ordination of services in these areas, while at the same time allowing local communities and voluntary organisations to participate in the planning, design and delivery of those services. They are designed to complement and add value to the extensive range of interventions being delivered through the State agencies.

All the LDTFs, with the exception of Bray, are currently implementing their second round of action plans and, to date, over €14.5 million has been allocated. In total, the Government has allocated over €51 million to implement the projects contained in the plans of the task forces since 1997.

With regard to the extent of cocaine use in Dublin area, comprehensive figures are not available, however, I am aware that the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, has reported that its services are beginning to notice an increase in those presenting with problems related to cocaine use, though it should be noted that the numbers involved are still low. Services for cocaine users primarily involve counselling and additional counsellors and outreach workers have been recruited by the three area health boards of the ERHA in the last number of years. In addition, the Northern Area Health Board has recently established a treatment clinic dedicated to cocaine misuse in the north inner city.
It is also worth noting that the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, has commissioned a national population survey which is due to be completed this summer and this should give us a a more reliable picture of drug use nation-wide, including cocaine.
Against the background of the increased allocation for drugs services provided by my Department for 2003, I am confident that any extra measures that may need to be taken to tackle cocaine use can be addressed in the context of the national drugs strategy 2001-2008.
Question No. 343 answered with Question No. 338.