Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (546)

Jonathan O'Brien


558 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners on waiting lists for drug treatment services, counselling services, in each prison; the method by which the prison service ensure continuity of care for drug using prisoners. [34849/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

There are a range of drug rehabilitation programmes available for prisoners which involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations. The programmes seek to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted prisoners. Particular initiatives include, inter alia, the provision of detoxification, methadone maintenance, education programmes, addiction counselling and drug therapy programmes.

The delivery of these services is being achieved in partnership with community based services and has brought a significant improvement in the range, quality and availability of drug treatment services in the prisons. It is the policy of the Irish Prison Service that where a person committed to prison gives a history of opiate use and tests positive for opioids, they are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification, if clinically indicated. There is no waiting list for a detox as there is no dependency on community place availability.

There is no waiting period for methadone maintenance. The Irish Prison Service ensures the seamless transition of prisoners established on drug treatment from our care into community drug treatment settings as agreed in the protocol developed with the HSE. If the prisoner is on a community programme prior to committal to prison, the maintenance programme is continued during the prison term. Prior to a patient being commenced on methadone maintenance in prison, a drug treatment place in the community must be secured to ensure continuation of treatment upon release. Methadone substitution treatment is available in 9 of the 14 prisons and places of detention (accommodating over 80% of the prison population).

Merchants Quay Ireland are contracted to provide addiction counselling services in prisons and deliver approximately 1,500 prisoner contacts per month. The service is delivered by 21 counsellors. In 2011, there were 2,792 referrals to the service. There are currently approximately 200 on waiting lists across the system awaiting assessment and treatment. All those referred are assessed initially by a counsellor to identify the person's addiction and agree a treatment plan.

There are currently Drug Free Units in Mountjoy Prison, Wheatfield Prison, Cloverhill Prison and St. Patrick's Institution. In addition, the Training Unit, Arbour Hill, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey are regarded as drug free institutions. As part of the enhancement of the drug treatment services in prisons a standard Drug Free Programme has been developed for implementation in all closed prisons (with the exception of Arbour Hill). This programme will support any prisoner who is drug free, has drug free status and/or is stable on methadone. It is intended that by the end of 2012 all closed prisons will operate this Programme in dedicated drug free areas.