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New National Drugs Strategy must resource frontline services - Doherty

18 June, 2008


Speaking in the Seanad today on the development of a new National Drugs Strategy from 2009 - 2016 Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said the HSE recruitment ban is preventing the introduction of much needed drug treatment services even where funding has already been approved.

Senator Doherty said the next National Drugs Strategy must ensure that funding to frontline services is sufficient and secure and that staff should not be unduly hindered with endless paper work as is currently the case.

He said, "The Government and particularly the HSE are hindering the delivery of the current National Drugs Strategy. The HSE recruitment ban or 'employment controls' are preventing the replacement of staff who have left existing drug treatment services and in addition it is preventing the introduction of new much needed services even where funding for same has already been approved. By its own admission the HSE are short more than 350 detox and rehab beds. They have less than half the beds currently required

"Under Budget 2008 finance to the Drugs Initiative/Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund which includes the NDS is to be €64 million. When this figure is contrast with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund which is to receive €76.6 million it is clear where the government's priorities lie.

"The new National Drugs Strategy must ensure that funding to frontline services is sufficient and secure. Staff should not be unduly hindered with endless paper work as is currently the case when seeking funding.

"Successful pilot schemes must be mainstreamed without undue delay and with the necessary additional funding. The Justice Minister has indicated that the Dial to Stop Drug dealing scheme is to be rolled out. We have been calling for this since 2006. This must happen without further delay and like its successful pilot in Blanchardstown it must be a confidential 'non-Garda' line. It is this characteristic which allows it to serve as a bridge between communities and Gardaí.

"Under the new National Drugs Strategy communities and Joint Policing Committees should have a role informing the allocation of Garda resources and Garda operations in particular those of the national and local drugs squads. In addition a constructive link between communities and the Criminal Assets Bureau should be developed with monies taken from drug dealers being redirected back into community development in the areas where the dealer has been most active.

"For any new drug strategy to be successful it is absolutely essential that the Government recognises the gravity of the drugs crisis and matches it with the adequate resources to combat it. This has not been the case heretofore as evidenced by the pitiful resources put into the current National Drugs Strategy." ENDS

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