I am very unhappy with this. I cannot think of anything more important for which the Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy should be present than to listen to me speak as a representative of a community suffering greatly because of drug crime.
People have been shot at and have been petrol bombed. Communities have been left unaided and unsupported by the Department of the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. I do not say this lightly. I use the words from a report the Minister of State herself launched yesterday in County Louth. The report, A study on how families are affected by substance misuse in the North East Region of Ireland, includes findings that in the north-east region there is a long waiting list for treatment and a paucity of community treatment, insufficient counselling services, lack of dual diagnoses and mental health services, insufficient methadone prescribing GPs and very few family support services. Additionally, participants spoke of a perceived lack of professional standards, accountability and transparency by some treatment services towards patients.
What is the Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy going to do to tackle this serious outbreak of drug related activity in our town? In fairness, the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, has visited Drogheda three times when she met with the Red Door project. Nothing happened, however, after she left. We got no money. There is a chart in her report that shows there is inadequate support for families. There are no outreach services in Drogheda. There are zero outreach services. I believe it is the duty of the Minister of State's Department to provide those. The Red Door project does its very best with drug treatment but there is a four month waiting list for people who wish to get treatment. A person contacted me yesterday, the day before that and last Friday. Sadly, he is in a very serious state with regard to his mental health and unfortunately is in a very difficult situation. He is waiting to get treatment and feels that if he does not get it his mental health will disintegrate. That is just one example of one person who has contacted me on this issue.
What is the solution? I put it to the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne - who is not here - that the Red Door project is looking for €200,000. This would provide two outreach workers and one family worker to address the issues. These workers would work most effectively and efficiently in the Moneymore estate, which includes a population of more than 800 young people under the age of 16. There is a lack of adequate community facilities and youth facilities in Moneymore - there is none - but here are sites where a community facility could be built. They have produced a report that I would be glad to hand to the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, which she could act upon and work with to ensure the issue is addressed.
This is not just an issue for Drogheda. It is an issue for the whole State. It is a fact that in the last calendar year 730 people in the State died as a result of drug abuse. This is two people every day. Compare the figure for these tragic deaths - they are tragedies - to the 186 people who, also tragically, died as a result of road traffic accidents.
I am not saying there is no money going into drug treatment services, of course there is, and I am not saying the HSE is not doing its best, but we need to fund it properly. It is unacceptable to me that we do not have outreach workers in Drogheda.
As Members are aware, I welcome the initiatives of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, in providing gardaí to tackle the crime issues and the drug dealers and those who are shooting and petrol bombing in the area. These people are giving our town an appalling name that it does not deserve and which it never had before two drug gangs fell out with each other. It will not, however, be solved by criminal justice. Criminal justice is not the solution. It is part of the solution. Social supports, caring for the community and acting in the community are the way forward.
I contacted the Health Research Board today to try to identify what are the issues. I can give a figure for the last calendar year in County Louth for the needle service, which operates through pharmacies: there were 44,000 needles exchanged in pharmacies in County Louth in the last 12 months. Obviously, that is not 44,000 people or anywhere near it but we do not actually know the number of people who use this needle service. The Health Research Board tells me that 45% of all drugs misused in Ireland are heroin or opiates, so it is a significant number of people. If there is anything good about that number it is that these people are using clean needles and hopefully they will avoid the other health implications of their drug taking.