Taoiseach launches “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025”

-   An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, today joined Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State Catherine Byrne to launch “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025”.

Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery lays out the direction of government policy on drug and alcohol use until 2025. The new strategy aims to provide an integrated public health approach to drug and alcohol use, focused on promoting healthier lifestyles within society.

The strategy contains an ambitious 50 point Action Plan from 2017 to 2020, and provides the scope to develop further actions between 2021 and 2025 to ensure the continued relevance of the strategy to emerging needs into the future.

The vision of the strategy is to create a healthier and safer Ireland, and its actions will contribute towards improving the health, wellbeing and safety of the population of Ireland in the coming years.

Launching the strategy the Taoiseach said “For the ideal of a Republic of Opportunity to be meaningful, it must apply to all. Treating substance abuse and drug addiction as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, helps individuals, helps families, and helps communities. It reduces crime because it rebuilds lives. So it helps all of us.

“Ireland has a problem with substance misuse. Rates of drug use in Ireland have risen significantly over the past decade, with the greatest increases among younger people. These issues highlight the need to intervene effectively to reduce the harms associated with substance misuse, and combat the underlying reasons for the demand for drugs. Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery represents a whole-of-government response to the problem of drug and alcohol use in Ireland. It recognises the importance of supporting the participation of communities in key decision making structures, so that their experience and knowledge informs the development of solutions to solve problems related to substance misuse in their areas. It emphasises a health-led response to drug and alcohol use, based on providing person-centred services that promote rehabilitation and recovery.

“I welcome the initiative of the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD and the Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, for bringing forward this strategy to respond to the problem of drug and alcohol use in Ireland. This Government will work to build a Republic of Opportunity that means something in people’s lives. Especially those who have not had many opportunities in the past.”

Key actions of Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery include:

· Introduction of a pilot supervised injecting facility in Dublin’s city centre;

· Establishment of a Working Group to examine alternative approaches to the possession for personal use of small quantities of illegal drugs;

· Funding for a programme to promote community awareness of alcohol-related harm;

· A new targeted youth services scheme for young people at risk of substance misuse in socially and economically disadvantaged communities;

· Expansion of drug and alcohol addiction services, including residential services;

· Recruitment of 4 Clinical Nurse Specialists and 2 Young Persons Counsellors to complement HSE multi-disciplinary teams for under 18s;

· Recruitment of 7 additional drug-liaison midwives to support pregnant women with alcohol dependency;

· Establishment of a Working Group to explore ways of improving progression options for people exiting treatment, prison or community employment schemes, with a view to developing a new programme of supported care and employment.

· The early Work Programme of the Standing Sub-Committee will focus on Drug-related Intimidation, pending the outcome of the respective evaluations of the Drug-related Intimidation Reporting Frameworks by An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Health Simon Harris said “In Ireland today it’s estimated that there are up to 1.35 million harmful drinkers, while one in four adults have tried an illegal drug at least once in their lifetime. It is clear that we need to act now to tackle the huge problem we have, as a country, with drug and alcohol use. If we are to reduce the dreadful harm caused and support recovery, then we must ensure that all of our efforts are person-centred and health-led. We must ensure that this ambitious new strategy is about action and delivery.
The Minister added “I welcome the focus in Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery on improving access to drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation services.  I am especially glad to see specific commitments in the strategy to expand services for young people under 18 and to recruit more Drug Liaison Midwives to work with pregnant women with substance misuse issues. We must all work together now to respond to Ireland’s drug and alcohol problem and ensure the ambitious but achievable actions contained in “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery” are implemented in full, for the good of all of our people.”

Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne said “Ireland has a high level of alcohol consumption and many Irish people engage in harmful drinking patterns, which have significant health, social and economic costs. I welcome the fact that under this strategy, Drug and Alcohol Task Forces will be resourced to continue their work in raising awareness in communities of alcohol-related harm.”

John Carr, Chairman of the National Drugs Strategy Steering Committee said “The development of this strategy involved a wide range of sectors, stakeholders and interests working together. If we harness this energy, I have no doubt that we can deliver on the ambitious goals in this strategy.

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