I move amendment No. 4:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann:" and replace with the following:
— the world drug problem remains a common and shared responsibility that should be addressed in a multilateral setting through effective and increased international cooperation and demands an integrated, multidisciplinary, mutually reinforcing, balanced, scientific evidence based and comprehensive approach (United Nations General Assembly);
— in the European Union (EU) over 92 million people have tried an illicit drug in their lifetime (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction);
— 14 per cent of young Europeans (15–34 years) used cannabis in the last year;
— the EU early warning system for new drugs monitored 670 new psychoactive substances by the end of 2017, up from 300 in 2013;
— in Ireland 26 per cent of the population aged 15 years or over reported using an illegal drug in their lifetime, with cannabis the most widely used (Drug Prevalence Survey);
— there was a 75 per cent reduction in the use of new psychoactive substances by young adults between 2010/2011 and 2014/2015;
— the annual number of poisoning deaths (overdose) by alcohol and/or other drugs was 348 in 2015, a four per cent decrease from 2014, and that alcohol was implicated in a third of those deaths;
— 30 new proceeds-of-crime proceedings were brought before the High Court in 2018, up from 13 in 2016, the majority of which arise from drug trafficking;
— 184 asset profiles were submitted to the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in 2018, a 178 per cent increase from 2016;
— €5.67 million was returned to the State under CAB activities in 2018; and
— there were 16 formal reported incidents and 76 informal reported incidents of the use of violence or the threat of violence to enforce debts nationally in 2017;
— the implementation of the whole-of-Government strategy to address drug and alcohol misuse, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025, and the active engagement with all stakeholders,
especially at the community level;
— the robust monitoring and accountability structures for the National Drugs Strategy (NDS), which involve the Minister of State, relevant Government departments, State agencies, drug and alcohol task forces, voluntary organisations and community representatives at national, regional and local level;
— the further reporting of progress on the strategy to Cabinet Committee B (Social Policy and Public Services) chaired by the Taoiseach and the associated senior officials group;
— the funding of almost €100 million provided annually by the Department of Health to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the provision of addiction services; and
— the funding of €28 million provided annually by the Department of Health to the drug and alcohol task forces; and
welcomes the Government’s commitment to:
— implement and report on progress on the 50 strategic actions in the NDS on an annual basis through the national oversight structures and to develop an evaluation framework for a mid-term review of the strategy in 2020;
— provide new funding of over €1 million in 2019 (rising to over €2 million on an annual basis) for an integrated mental health and addiction programme in the HSE national service plan;
— better support people facing addiction and mental health issues in the refresh of A Vision for Change;
— prioritise the expansion of community-based healthcare services to minimise the harms from the misuse of substances and strengthen governance structures, in the HSE National Service Plan 2019;
— provide new funding of €1 million on an annual basis from 2019 for the implementation of the NDS, in conjunction with drug and alcohol task forces and the HSE;
— develop a new scheme with a fund of €250,000 on an annual basis from 2019, to provide targeted, appropriate and effective services for young people at risk of substance abuse, focused on disadvantaged communities;
— further implement the Mulvey Report on the north east inner city to address the drug related issues which are affecting the community, under the leadership of the programme implementation board;
— publish and oversee the implementation of a code of governance for task forces in line with best practice in the community, voluntary and charitable sectors;
— ensure that Ireland makes an active contribution to the forthcoming UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in cooperation with other EU member states;
— establish Ireland’s first supervised injecting facility, in conjunction with Merchants Quay Ireland, to reduce the harms caused by injecting drugs and the prevalence of drug-related litter on our streets and communities;
— support HSE monitoring and oversight responsibilities of drug and alcohol task forces under its section 39 governance framework to ensure that service provision is meeting identified needs and there is accountability and transparency for public monies provided by the Department of Health;
— treat substance abuse and drug addiction as a public health issue, informed by the forthcoming report of the working group on alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use;
— strengthen the effectiveness and the public awareness of the drug-related intimidation reporting programme developed by An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network;
— enhance the profile of Garda asset seizure activity in local communities, through proactive profiling and investigation of local criminals;
— continue to support, promote and resource community participation in all local, regional and national structures; and
— implement the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, by prohibiting, from November 2019, alcohol advertising in or on public service vehicles, at public transport stops or stations and within 200 metres of a school, early years centre or a local authority
playground, and by prohibiting alcohol advertising around films with an under-18 classification in a cinema and children’s clothing that promotes alcohol."
I welcome everybody who has come to the Chamber for this important debate on the motion presented by Deputy Joan Collins. I also welcome this opportunity to update the Dáil on progress in implementing the national drugs strategy and on our plans to provide additional funding for new initiatives to tackle drug and alcohol misuse.
It is just over 18 months since the Government published the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, a health-led response to addressing drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025. At its core, are the values of compassion, respect, equity, inclusion, partnership and an evidence-informed approach. The strategy represents an integrated public health response to substance misuse, with the dual aims of reducing harm and supporting recovery. The first phase of the strategy for the period up to the end of 2020 contains 50 actions across the following five goals: to promote and protect health and well-being; to minimise the harms caused by the use and misuse of substances and to promote rehabilitation and recovery; to address the harms of drug markets and reduce access to drugs for harmful use; to support participation of individuals, families and communities; and to develop sound and comprehensive evidence-informed policies and actions. As Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, my focus and priority is the implementation of these actions. My officials recently presented the progress report on the strategy for 2018 and the planned activity for 2019 to the National Oversight Committee, NOC, which I chair. This committee comprises representatives from all relevant Departments, State agencies, drug and alcohol task forces, voluntary organisations and community representatives. Its remit is to give leadership, direction, prioritisation and mobilisation of resources to support the implementation of the strategy.
The progress report will be reviewed on an ongoing basis during 2019 by a standing sub-committee. Progress will be further reported through Cabinet Committee B, chaired by An Taoiseach and the associated senior officials group. I am happy to attend the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health to update it on the implementation of the strategy. Next year will see the launch of a mid-term evaluation of the strategy. This will allow all stakeholders the opportunity to reflect on progress on implementing the strategy and to identify what new actions may be required for period up to 2025.
The strategy commits to treating substance misuse and drug addiction as a public health issue. As a result, I established a working group to consider alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use. To inform the group’s deliberations, the Department of Health undertook a public consultation, which generated more than 20,000 responses to an online questionnaire. I understand from the chair of the group, Mr. Justice Sheehan, that the group is finalising its report and will submit it to the Minister for Health, the Minister for Justice and Equality and me by the end of March.
The Government is also tackling the alcohol problem as a public health matter. The Public Health (Alcohol) Act, which was enacted on 17 October 2018, is groundbreaking legislation that aims to reduce harmful drinking by people of all ages and create an environment where children will not be exposed to alcohol products or advertising. From November 2019, the Act will prohibit alcohol advertising at public transport stops or stations and within 200 m of schools, early years centres or local authority playgrounds. As Deputies will be aware, an important action in the national drugs strategy is to establish a supervised injecting facility, SIF, the purpose of which is to reduce the harm caused by injecting drugs and address the problem of drug-related litter on our streets and communities.
I am acutely aware of the harm caused by injecting drugs to people struggling with addiction, while those who inject openly on our streets are at even greater risk. Discarded drug paraphernalia in communities also poses a risk to members of the public and the supervised injecting facility is a major step towards reducing these risks, treating addiction as an illness and reducing deaths from overdose. The supervised injecting facility is a Government policy and it is crucial that it opens as soon as possible. In 2018, following a tender process, the contract to operate the new service on a pilot basis was awarded to Merchants Quay Ireland, which submitted an application for planning permission for the facility in October 2018. I understand that the application is still under consideration by Dublin City Council and that further information on local services and the policing plan have been requested. I am firmly committed to the SIF and officials in my Department are working with various stakeholders to advance the project.
In September 2018, I announced the establishment of a community fund to support improvements in the physical and social environment in the area around Merchants Quay in the south-west inner city. The HSE national service plan for 2019 sets out the priorities and actions for improving health outcomes for those with addiction issues. Specific actions are designed to expand community-based healthcare services to minimise the harms from the misuse of substances; strengthen governance structures in treatment services; develop an integrated mental health and addiction programme for co-occurring mental health and substance misuse concerns among at-risk groups, with new funding of more than €1 million in 2019, rising to €2 million on an annual basis; implement new models of care for homeless people with complex and multiple needs, including addiction, as part of an integrated housing and health policy response in line with the Housing First national implementation plan; and improve addiction treatment and rehabilitation services in Dublin's north-east inner city, in partnership with the North East Inner City programme implementation board.
I acknowledge the important work being done in communities by the 24 drug and alcohol task forces throughout the country. They play an important role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem and taking the appropriate responses to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach involving all sectors in local communities. In 2018, the Department provided €28 million to drug and alcohol task forces through various channels of funding including the HSE. Last year, I established a working group to revise and update the handbook for task forces, which was published in 2011. This work is ongoing in my Department in association with the key stakeholders and is in line to be finalised in the second quarter of 2019. From this process we will have a new code of governance for task forces, in line with best practice in the community, voluntary and charitable sectors, and my Department will support its implementation in 2019. The revision of the task force handbook is an important step in the development of a performance measurement system, and an implementation plan to operationalise such a system will be developed by 2020. The HSE has monitoring and oversight responsibilities of drug and alcohol task forces under its section 39 governance framework to ensure that service provision meets identified needs and that there is accountability and transparency for public money provided by the Department of Health.
Yesterday I was delighted to announce an additional €1 million in funding for the implementation of the national drugs strategy this year. It is not fair to say the funding has only just been announced, given that I have mentioned a number of times in the Chamber and the Seanad that new funding would become available to us, although I did not have the figures at the time. The funding, which will be provided on a recurring, multi-annual basis, will address the priorities set down in the strategy, including early harm reduction responses, emerging trends in substance misuse such as polydrug use and crack cocaine and improving services for at-risk groups. It will also complement enhancement in drug and alcohol treatment services relating to mental health and homelessness under the 2019 HSE national service plan.
Working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary sectors is central to the response. I will consult the drug and alcohol task forces and the HSE on how best to target this new funding and I have invited the task forces to a meeting in the Department of Health at the end of March to begin this process. This year I also intend to develop two new schemes to deliver an integrated public health approach to drugs and alcohol, as set out in the national drugs strategy. The first will provide targeted, appropriate and effective services for young people at risk of substance abuse, focused on disadvantaged areas, while the second will support evidence-based approaches to mobilising community action on alcohol. Both schemes will have funding of €250,000 on a multi-annual basis.
In conclusion, I reiterate my belief in a health-led, person-centred approach to addressing the issue of drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland. My priority is the continued implementation of our national drugs strategy with the support of the drug and alcohol task forces. I am confident that, working together, we can build in future on our many achievements.