Department of Health Press Release: Wednesday 17 November 2021
Minister Feighan publishes Mid-term Review of National Drugs Strategy and Strategic Priorities for 2021-2025
Frank Feighan TD, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy today published the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery. He also announced the six strategic priorities for the remaining four years of the strategy, 2021-2025.
Minister Feighan said: “The mid-term review of the strategy shows significant progress in implementing the action plan for the period 2017 to 2020, with only a small number of the 50 actions outstanding. We have improved access and availability of drug services, especially services for women, people who are homeless and those with heroin addiction. There is a new clinical programme for dual diagnosis and the Government is championing an alternative health-led approach for the possession of drugs for personal use.”
The Minister continued: “The mid-term review also looked at the effectiveness of government expenditure on the national drugs strategy, based on key indicators. It estimates the significant costs for society of drug use for the criminal justice system and the economy.”
Minister Feighan said: “I am announcing six strategic priorities for the remaining years of the strategy until 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 first priority is to strengthen the prevention of drug use and its associated harms among children and young people. A second priority is to enhance access and delivery of drug and alcohol services in the community, in line with the Sláintecare population health model of ‘right care, right place, right time’.
“Another priority is to address the social determinants and consequences of drug use and criminality in disadvantaged communities. This requires the involvement and cooperation of a range of government department and agencies in tackling the root causes of drug and alcohol use. It is not acceptable that the lives of families and communities are blighted by the violence and intimidation associated with criminal groups.”
The Minister highlighted the importance of international cooperation to address the drug phenomenon. “I am working with member states to implement the new EU drugs strategy and action plan 2021-2025. I am also engaged with the member administrations of the British Irish Council to strengthen cooperation and shared learning on common challenges. In particular, I’m advocating collective EU action to reduce the harms associated with drug use to protect and support people who use drugs, so as to reduce and prevent drug-related deaths. I also want to share international best practices in providing alternative to coercive sanctions for drug-related offences, such as the health diversion programme.”
The Minister has revised the oversight structures to drive the implementation of the strategic priorities for 2021-2025. “I believe that the new structures will strengthen the partnership approach and give a stronger voice to civil society in developing national policy. I am also providing independent leadership to ensure the accountability of all stakeholders and involving service users to provide insights from the lived experience of drug and alcohol addiction.”
The strategic action plan contains 50 actions covering the initial four period (2017-2020) of Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery. The strategy provides for a mid-term review to ensure that the aims and direction continue to be appropriate.
The assessment of expenditure and performance under the strategy, carried out by the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, is available on the Department’s website. The mid-term review is also informed by the results of the national drug and alcohol survey for 2019-2020 and findings of a rapid assessment on the impact of Covid-19 on drug and alcohol services.
The six strategic priorities for the national drugs strategy for 2021-2025 are:
- strengthen the prevention of drug and alcohol use among children and young people;
- enhance access and delivery of drug and alcohol services in the community,
- develop harm reduction responses and integrated care pathways for high-risk drug users,
- address the social determinants and consequences of drugs use in disadvantaged communities:
- promote alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug-related offences: and
- strengthen evidence-informed and outcomes-focused practice, services, policies and strategy implementation.
To support the implementation of the strategic priorities, Minister Feighan has provided additional funding of €6m for new health measures in Budget 2022.