Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (670)

Brendan Smith


670. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the measures he proposes to implement to restore confidence in the national drugs strategy; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the decision-making authority is being taken away from the partnership structures of the strategy and being centralised in his Department and the HSE; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that necessary consultation is not taking place with communities; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the strategy at local and regional level is perceived as being undermined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45265/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Maintaining a partnership approach between statutory, community and voluntary bodies is a core value of the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025.

In addition, Action 39 of the strategy is to support and promote community participation in all local, regional and national structures. In line with this, 11 community and voluntary representatives are included on the oversight structures of the strategy, which give leadership and direction to support the implementation of the strategy.

I am the chair of the National Oversight Committee which has a cross-sectoral membership from the statutory, community and voluntary sectors. The Committee meets every three months and held its most recent meeting on 20th September 2019. There is also a standing sub-committee which promotes coordination between national, local and regional levels.

Drug and alcohol task forces that play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in local communities and in ensuring that a coordinated approach is taken across all sectors to address substance misuse based on the identified needs and priorities in their areas. Again, the task forces are made up of community, voluntary and statutory representatives.

The Department of Health provides annual funding of €225,000 to support, develop and facilitate the involvement of communities in the local and national structures for implementing the national drugs strategy. This includes supporting community representatives on Drug and Alcohol Task Forces, organising a national community representatives’ network and participating on the national oversight structures for the national drugs strategy.

The Task Forces oversee an annual budget of €28m from the Department of Health and the HSE. This funding supports over 280 community projects, in local areas and communities throughout the country, to support initiatives to tackle drug and alcohol use and misuse.

Additional funding of €1m has been provided in 2019. This included €480,000 to provide an additional €20,000 for each of the 24 Task Forces, €10,000 of which will be on a permanent recurring basis. It also funds 13 strategic initiatives to respond to emerging trends in substance misuse and to improve access to services for people with complex needs. The funding was allocated following a national consultation with the 24 Task Forces and 9 community healthcare organisations. I am confident the new strategic initiatives will have a positive impact and make a difference to people’s lives as they journey to recovery.

I am committed to working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary sectors in implementing the national drugs strategy.