The national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, adopts a population health approach to respond to the misuse of alcohol. The strategy aims to promote and protect health and wellbeing at a population level by delaying the use of alcohol and other drugs among young people, influencing behaviour and challenging social norms and minimising harm for those who have already started to use alcohol or other drugs.
The strategy puts the needs of people and communities at the centre of the response to substance misuse and empowers people to take charge of their own health. It aims to support people and communities in making more positive changes and to influence the wider environment to enable people to make a healthy choice. The strategy complements the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which outlines measures to reduce alcohol consumption and to reduce the harms associated with alcohol.
Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem and in initiating appropriate responses, so that there is a coordinated approach involving all sectors to the problem of substance misuse in local communities. In excess of €27.6m has been allocated to Task Forces by the HSE and the Department of Health for community-based drugs initiatives this year. This level of funding is consistent with the amounts provided for the last four years.
The remit of the Drugs Task Forces was extended to include the problem of alcohol misuse in 2014, in view of the central role they play in coordinating the response to substance misuse at local level. The 2014-2016 Dormant Accounts Action Plan provided a budget of approximately €1m to support the Task Forces in undertaking work at local and regional level to address the alcohol problem.
The Community Action on Alcohol Project (CAAP) was set up in 2014 to provide Task Forces with training on community mobilisation in order to develop coordinated strategies to change behaviour around alcohol and to raise awareness of alcohol related harm. CAAP training for Task Forces is funded by the HSE and is delivered by the Alcohol Forum. A Steering Group chaired by the Drugs Policy Unit in the Department of Health oversees the work of CAAP. By the end of 2017, 16 of the 24 Task Forces had participated on the Central Training Programme.
I recently announced a further €290,000 for Task Forces to support and enhance services addressing drug and alcohol misuse. This money will be allocated in quarter four of 2018. In addition, Task Forces will be consulted by the HSE on the provision of €710,000 for priority projects and services in CHO areas. These resources can be used to support initiatives and treatment services dealing with alcohol misuse.