Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, has committed to working with the Department of Justice to implement the recommendations on drug services contained in the scoping report on community safety and wellbeing in Drogheda.
The report was commissioned by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, in response to rising concerns regarding crime, and specifically drug-related crime, as well as feuding between organised crime groups in the Drogheda area. The report makes 73 recommendations in relation to short-term and long-term responses to the challenges faced by communities affected by drug-related crime in the area.
Welcoming the publication of the report, Minister Feighan said:
"Drug activities are affecting individuals and communities in Drogheda and across the North East region, leading to ill-health, pre-mature deaths, damaged family and social relations and drug-related violence and intimidation. These issues require a whole-of-government response, as set out in the National Drugs Strategy. Through the working together of all stakeholders, we can address the problems in Drogheda and the North East region."
Commenting on the recommendations on drugs services in the report, Minister Feighan said:
"I am committed to improving the availability of drug and alcohol services in Drogheda and the North East region of Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. As well as the allocation of €150,000 announced by Minister McEntee today for drug and alcohol services in Drogheda, the Department of Health and the HSE is providing a further €150,000 to support family support services and to improve access to community-based drug and alcohol services across the region.
"There have been significant improvements made in HSE addiction services in the last year in Louth and Meath, with an additional 46 people included in the opioid substitution treatment programme, however, I acknowledge that there remain gaps in services. The HSE is undertaking a review of statutory, voluntary and community drug services in the region, which includes Drogheda. I have asked the HSE to prioritise the provision of harm reduction measures, such as opioid substitution treatment, needle exchange and naloxone.
"The North East Drug and Alcohol Task Force is the regional structure for coordinating drug and alcohol services under the National Drugs Strategy and brings together statutory, voluntary and community organisations, including service users. I have asked the Task Force to look at practical ways to improve inter-agency cooperating in the provision of drug and alcohol services and to provide training in drug-related intimidation."
Joseph Ruane, Head of Primary Care Services Midlands Louth/Meath Community Health Organisation, welcomed the publication of the report. He said:
"No one agency can deal with the many different aspects of substance misuse and it is only by working in partnership with other agencies and the local community that we can we maximise the effectiveness of our interventions. All sectors involved should be commended for this initiative and its multi-agency approach.
"We will continue to work with our local partners, with the scoping report providing a roadmap for us to deliver the much needed services for the people of Drogheda and the surrounding areas. We have long recognised that the drugs issue requires a multi-agency and community response if we were to get to grips with the situation.
"A priority for the HSE is the resumption of harm reduction measures, including needle and syringe exchange programme. We will also enhance supports for service users on OST treatment, including the additional 46 clients engaged in the services in 2020."
Jim Mullery, Chair of the North Eastern Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force, also welcomed the report’s recommendations.
"This report provides a framework for action, recognising that problematic alcohol and other drug use is both a cause and consequence of so much community unease, and places our work in that broader social inclusion setting.
"As an inter-agency forum on drug and alcohol services under the national drugs strategy, the Task Force is well placed to lead on the report’s recommendations on improving inter-agency cooperation on service delivery and providing inter-agency training on drug-related intimidation. With the support of the Gardaí and the Family Addiction Support Network, the Task Force hopes to re-start training in the Drug Related Intimidation Reporting Programme later this year. In the meantime, we are continuing to flag the availability of formal and informal supports to all statutory community-based services. We have also been in touch with local credit unions too, recognising that they may be a first contact for families in crisis."
Source: The Department of Health, 26/03/21