The Covid-19 pandemic has created uncertainty and anxiety for everyone and particularly for those affected by drug and alcohol addiction.
At the onset of Covid-29, the Department and the HSE developed harm reduction posters for people with substance use issues. Key harm reduction messages were included in both posters to keep people as safe as possible during Covid-19 and reminding them to stay in contact with drug and alcohol services.
The HSE raises awareness of the dangers associated with drugs through its Drugs.ie website. In response to Covid-19, the site contains important resources relating to drug use during this period, including new drug trends and issues, such as nitrous oxide and drug overdose.
The Standing Committee of the National Oversight Committee held a special meeting on the impact of Covid-19 in June. A range of stakeholders including representatives from the community and voluntary sectors, drug and alcohol task forces, and the HSE reported on emerging issues.
An assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on people who use drugs and on service providers is being undertaken by the Department. It includes an online survey of drug services to capture their experiences from the front line and case studies on how drug and alcohol services have adapted.
The final report regarding the Covid-19 assessment will be presented to the National Oversight Committee. It is also envisioned that the findings will be used to inform the mid-term review of our National Drugs Strategy.
The Department has set up a working group with drug and alcohol service providers to develop a 'Framework for the Restoration of Drug and Alcohol Services', so that services can resume in a planned and appropriate manner in line with public health advice.
I have approved additional funding to support the resumption of drug and alcohol services including the adaptation of services, premises, online meetings and personal protective equipment.
I believe drug and alcohol services provide essential supports for people with addiction issues. I expect to receive the Framework Document by the end of October.