Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs VENUE DUNDALK DATE 29 MAY 2008 NOTE Mr. John Curran, T.D., Minister for State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, and the Steering Group established to develop proposals for a new strategy, invited members of the public to a series of public consultation meetings throughout April and May 2008, as part of the development of the new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. The public consultations were advertised in both the national and local press and were open to all members of the public. As part of the public consultation meeting, members of the public were asked to consider the following questions: What are your top 3 concerns in relation to drugs in your area? What aspects of our efforts to deal with the drugs problem are working well? Are there gaps in the way we are addressing the drugs problem? What are the priorities for the future? This note provides a summary of the outputs from the public consultation meeting in Dundalk on 29 May 2008. The following points are worth noting in the context of the consultation outputs: The views highlighted in this note are those of the stakeholders that attended the public consultation meeting and, unless otherwise stated, should not be considered outputs of analysis conducted by either the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs or PA Consulting Group; It was not possible to present verbatim each individual view or comment made during the consultation process. This overview aims to include the issues and concerns that were common to many attendees. Furthermore, this note does not suggest there was consensus amongst those in attendance on the points listed in the following sections. Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 CONCERNS IN RELATION TO DRUGS IN YOUR AREA? The following concerns were raised by attendees of the public consultation meeting. Concerns are listed below in no particular order. KEY NOTES FROM THE GROUP Violence associated with drug use – anti-social behaviour that results, bullying, crime. Availability of drugs in communities o Cannabis, heroin, alcohol – increase in poly drug use o Spread of drugs through all social classes. o Spread of drug use to all age groups – starts at primary school – hash freely available to young people. o Drug use spreading to small towns and rural areas Absence of a broad range of services o GPs (MMT), counsellors, psychologists, key workers, family supports services, youth work, detox (residential and community-based), needle exchange o Out-of-hours services o Facilities and services for young people The importance of family support needs to be recognised – it was identified in an issue in the Medium-Term Review but has yet to be prioritised – treatment is too focused on the individual and does not include the family. Availability of full range of treatment options. Coordination of all services – lack of joined-up thinking. Lack of rehab services and a need for a more integrated inter-agency approach to rehab in general. Glamorisation of drug use in the media Link between alcohol and drug use not recognised. Inconsistency of service provision across the country. Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs Lack of services in Cavan. Supply reduction a major concern – need to build up more intelligence – concern about the lack of anonymity in giving information to local Gardai – needs to be more confidential methods but awareness of confidential phone number is low. Repeat prescription of benzos without challenge. Need for treatment services for under 18s. WHAT ASPECTS OF OUR EFFORTS TO DEAL WITH THE DRUGS PROBLEM ARE WORKING WELL? The following points were raised by attendees of the public consultation meeting as examples of what is working and what is effective in dealing with the drugs problem. Points are listed in no particular order. KEY NOTES FROM THE GROUP Family support working well – strong community participation in dealing with drug issues locally. Counselling services work well but more needed. National Drugs Strategy moving things in the right direction but there is a need for more resources to implement it. Regional Drugs Task Force making good progress – it is flexible and responsive given the limited resources. Louth Addiction Providers Forum has been very useful with protocols developed and service level agreements in place. Drug awareness training and courses are good. Seizure of drugs by Gardai – cross-border cooperation with PSNI has worked well. Peer education in schools is an excellent approach – given to transition year and fifth year students – motivates young people to ask for more information. Aftercare interventions including day programmes and peer support. Community addiction studies course – helping to develop skills in the community to deal with the drug problem. Involvement of Dundalk Town Council in developing a coordinated approach to local drugs problem. Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs Emphasis placed on counselling and psychotherapy. Appointment of Minister Carey made a positive impact. Community Employment initiatives are beneficial. Peer support for drugs users works well. Programmes in prison work well. Cavan partnership has provided good leadership on the drugs issue locally. Dundalk Drugs Advisory Group works well – local authority led response involving local service providers – funded Community Addiction Studies course, undertook research, interfaced with GPs. ARE THERE GAPS IN THE WAY WE ARE ADDRESSING THE DRUGS PROBLEM? The following gaps were identified by attendees of the public consultation meeting. Gaps are noted in no particular order. KEY NOTES FROM THE GROUP Gaps in addiction services in order to ensure continuum of care. Lack of facilities for family support groups. Communication and representation weaknesses in Regional Drugs Task Force. Lack of detox and treatment beds – no treatment centre in North East area. Primary care teams need to be implemented across region. Lack of GPs that can prescribe methadone. Lack of out-of-hours services. Need more strategic approach to education around drug taking. Lack of focus on dual diagnosis – mental health problems are often not assessed, e.g. psychiatric effects of cannabis use. Lack of early intervention programmes. Gaps in knowledge and education of health professionals in relation to drugs. Lack of focus on the needs of travellers and other minority groups. Lack of a focus on a care plan approach. Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs Not enough Gardai. Gap in manpower and resources in services. Lack of public awareness raising initiatives such as TV campaigns. Gap in understanding of what really happens in terms of drug use on the ground. Same services needed in Cavan that are in Drogheda and Dundalk. Lack of multi-annual funding for projects – funding needs to be committed for 3 years. Need to consider problem of alcohol with that of illicit drugs – alcohol is the gateway drug - vintners need to be at the table – Task Force not allowed to get involved in addressing alcohol problems. Need for drug treatment clinic that can dispense methadone, offer counselling, deal with alcohol abuse. Need for alternative approach to methadone treatment for heroin users. Need to align drugs and alcohol within one service. SPHE programme not available in all schools. Gap in knowledge of parents about drugs and therefore engagement with their children on the subject. Improvement of HSE facilities in Dundalk and Drogheda. WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES FOR THE FUTURE? The following priorities were identified by attendees of the public consultation meeting. Priorities are noted in no particular order. KEY NOTES FROM THE GROUP Joint strategy for alcohol and drugs. Timely access to treatment services – currently bottlenecks to access services – more investment needed. More effective and visible policing. Public awareness campaign along the lines of that targeting drink driving. One pillar of the new strategy should be entirely focused on family support – this Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs area needs to be given mainstream funding. Increase in investment in prevention measures. Investment in services for under 18s – focus on mentoring and positive role model approaches. Implementation of agreed quality standards for all services. Prioritisation of aftercare services. More funding in general for projects to address drugs issues. Establishment of a detox centre in the region. More GPs that can prescribe methadone and also more accountability for this practice. Local solutions to local problems. Directory of services should be produced. Involvement of local authorities in addressing the drugs problem. Legislation in relation to ‘head shops’. Super Minister appointed to be in charge of drug policy attached to Department of the Taoiseach. Education in schools. o Training for teachers to deliver SPHE more effectively. o Make SPHE an integral part of the curriculum. o Bring external expertise into schools to deliver drugs programmes. o Education needs to be delivered both in-school and out-of-school for both parents and students. Mainstream pilot projects that are working well. Create ‘one stop shop’ for dealing with drugs, with all services accessible from one location. Focus on an inter-agency approach to rehabilitation. Use of RAPID structures to facilitate inter-agency approaches and bring forward drugs-related initiatives. Introduction of a needle exchange programme. Need to address issues around over-the-counter and prescribed medicines. Increase in the number of counsellors in addition services. Development of a new National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 Public Consultation Meeting Outputs Undertake needs analysis for North East region with proper responses subsequently developed. Development of an all-island approach – access to cross-border treatment services should be facilitated.