Drug and alcohol services cannot be forgotten during pandemic - Thomas Gould TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing Thomas Gould TD will tomorrow question Minister of State Frank Feighan on the need for increased support for drug and alcohol services post Covid-19.
Speaking today, the Cork North Central TD said:
“The real fear here is that as we return to normality, a wave of hidden addiction will come to the surface. I am hearing on the ground that the social isolation impacts of Covid-19 have already increased the demand for services and many are now fearful of a tsunami of addiction.
“The spin by government that funding to taskforces has increased year on year is simply untrue. Last year, when taskforces were promised an additional €1million in Budget 2020, they only received an increase of €240,000 across all 24 taskforces.
“That is a paltry amount considering the extraordinary work done by these groups on the ground every day, but especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are hearing that addiction has been exacerbated by Covid-19. We are hearing that these taskforces are crying out for money. What we can see is that in the last decade, taskforces have lost over €3million.
“109 rehabilitation beds have been closed since November 2019. Minister Feighan needs to reassure those working in addiction, and those in addiction and their families, that these beds will be returned as soon as possible.
“The HSE assurance that beds are assigned on a basis of need and not individual location is simply not good enough. Entry into rehabilitation should not be a postcode lottery. There are enough barriers to recovery for those in addiction. Your location should never be one.
“Budget 2021 made a number of promises including 150 additional residential treatment episodes. The Department of Health have informed me that the average length of stay for a treatment episode is eight weeks. 109 beds lost means that we have lost 709 treatment episodes. The 150 promised episodes will not go close to filling that gap.
“Each of those episodes is one person. One person with a family and a chance at life knocking at the door of treatment, asking to be given the chance of recovery.
"But they will now be turned away because capacity simply is not there. This is scandalous, but not a surprise. We know how Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments have always treated and continue to treat the most vulnerable in society.”