I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 183 together.
The Department of Health published the mid-term review of the actions in Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery and the report of the mid-term review was published on the 17th November. The review identified six strategic priorities for the national drugs strategy for the period 2021-2025.
The mid-term review was informed by a focussed policy assessment of expenditure on drugs and alcohol services, carried out by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES), new data on trends and indicators in drug and alcohol for 2019/2020, and the impact of Covid-19 on drug and alcohol services. The Department undertook considerable engagement with stakeholders, including community organisations, voluntary drug and alcohol service providers, and drug and alcohol task forces as part of the Mid Term Review.
Arising from the review, six strategic priorities were identified for the period 2021-2025. These will strengthen the health-led approach to drug use, as agreed in the Programme for Government, and align with the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan. The six strategic priorities are
1. Strengthen the prevention of drug and alcohol use and the associated harms among children
and young people;
2. Enhance access to and delivery of drug and alcohol services in the community;
3. Develop integrated care pathways for high-risk drug users to achieve better health
4. Address the social determinants and consequences of drug use in disadvantaged
5. Promote alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug-related offences;
6. Strengthen evidence-informed and outcomes-focused practice, services, policies and
To drive the implementation of the strategic priorities for 2021-2025, new oversight structures have been developed to strengthen the partnership approach and give a stronger voice to civil society in developing national policy. These groups will have independent leadership to ensure the accountability of all stakeholders and to involve service users to provide insights from the lived experience of drug and alcohol addiction.
As part of a review of the national oversight structures, the Department is proposing to establish a civil society group on drugs to widen and deepen the involvement of community and voluntary groups in the implementation of the strategy. The Civil Society group, as envisaged, will involve service users to ensure that insights from the lived experience of drug and alcohol addiction are represented.
Additional funding of €6m for health measures was provided in Budget 2022 to support the implementation of the national drugs strategy and to strengthen the health-led approach.
I can assure the Deputies that community and voluntary organisations will continue to have an active role in the design and delivery of the strategy, both at local level through the drug and alcohol task forces and at national level through the National Oversight Committee and strategic implementation groups.