Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Questions (16)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

16. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health his views on whether the funding provided to local and regional drug and alcohol task forces is sufficient to meet the aims of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12172/19]

View answer

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Health)

As the Minister of State knows, funding for local and regional drug and alcohol forums and task forces is vital in the fight against drug and alcohol addiction, which has had a devastating effect in many of our communities. Is the funding provided to these task forces sufficient to meet the aims of the national drugs strategy which we all want to succeed? I have grave concerns that it will not succeed owing to lack of funding.

The Department of Health allocated funding of almost €100 million to the HSE for addiction services in 2019. The HSE national service plan for 2019 sets out the type and volume of addiction services to be provided, having regard to the funding allocated.

In addition, the Department provides a further €28 million to drug and alcohol task forces through various channels of funding, including the HSE.

Measuring the overall effectiveness of the response to the drug problem is an important objective of Government policy. To this end, the national drugs strategy commits to operationalising a performance measurement system of drug and alcohol task forces by 2020.

I announced additional funding of €1 million for implementation of the national drugs strategy last week.

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 and improving services for at-risk groups.

The funding will complement enhancements 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 this response. I will be consulting the drug and alcohol task forces and the HSE on how best to target this new funding. I have issued an invitation to the task forces to a meeting in the Department of Health at the end March to begin this process.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. As a member and director of the mid-west region drug and alcohol forum, I appreciate the incredible work done by the groups we support and which are funded by task forces in the mid-west region and across the State. I note the additional funding announced in advance of the motion Sinn Féin tabled last week on the topic, but it is not enough. It only works out at about €41,000 for each of the 21 task forces, which is very little for the incredible work they have to do. I appreciate the invitation the Department made to task forces for a meeting. However, I plead with the Minister of State to make that easier. It was difficult last year when there was a funding announcement. I know it diverts the front-line staff from the work they need to do. Much of the bureaucracy that has come in is bogging them down in what they have to do.

Since 2008 my local task force has experienced cuts of more than 50%. Over the years these cuts have impacted dramatically and prevented the delivery of the urgently needed drug and alcohol services in Limerick and the mid-west region. If funding is not increased substantially, the aims of the national drugs strategy will not be met. Does the Minister of State intend to increase funding for local and regional drug and alcohol forums in addition to what was announced last week?

I concur with the Deputy on the good work being done within the finite budgets. I thank him for acknowledging exceptional work done by people in his area and throughout the country. I will pass on his concerns and hopes for increased funding in this area to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, who has ultimate responsibility for securing that. I will ensure that his views on the issue are made quite clear to her.

Question No. 17 replied to with Written Answers.