National Drugs Strategy - Centralised approach is not working

 National Drugs Strategy - Centralised approach is not working

All nine former Government ministers who have held responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy want the Taoiseach to intervene to restore confidence in its partnership framework and funding to its neighbourhood activities.

They say that the strategy, which has been in place since 1996, is in danger of collapse partly because of funding cuts made to the service since the financial crisis in 2008.

But it is not just the lack of funding that threatens to destroy the strategy.

The Government has allowed decision-making authority to be taken from national, regional, and local level and centralised again in the Department of Health and the HSE, neither of which are consulting local communities.

One of those nine ministers is former Labour Party leader Pat Rabitte. In 1996, during his tenure as a junior minister, he helped establish the anti-drugs strategy so any comments he makes on its trajectory need to be taken seriously. He has said: “Community participation and interagency working is crucial to an effective response to an increasingly complex and challenging drugs problem.”

Indeed, one of the strategic goals of the strategy is to ‘support the participation of individuals, families, and communities’ which is why every successive government up to now has reaffirmed the National Drugs Strategy’s partnership approach.

“At national, regional, and local level, decision-making authority is being taken away from the strategy’s partnership structures, and is reverting to the Department ofHealth and the HSE, who now make the key decisions centrally and without consultation with communities,” says Mr Rabbitte.

Two years ago, the strategy was reinvigorated, with a move away from a punishment approach to one of harm reduction and care. The Government set out a pathway for local drugs task forces to play a key part in decision-making, with an emphasis on community care.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launched the new approach,Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery — a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025.

He said the strategy recognised “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”. His words ring hollow now.

It is important to note that illegal drug use is a national problem, not just an urban one, while the latest Health Research Board’s newsletter shows cocaine use has now “returned to Celtic Tiger levels in Ireland” and is evident among rural communities. From Letterkenny in Donegal to Cahersiveen in Kerry, along with hundreds of towns and villages in between, drug misuse is now a feature of rural life.

It is also a community problem that only communities can tackle effectively. A centralised, bureaucratic, top-down approach from Dublin will never work.

More on this topic

597 patients waiting for beds countrywide597 patients waiting for beds countrywide

New research study to explore long-term effects of repeated concussionNew research study to explore long-term effects of repeated concussion

Almost 600 patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitalsAlmost 600 patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals

Stolen defibrillator found in Louth; One still missing in WicklowStolen defibrillator found in Louth; One still missing in Wicklow

More in this Section

David Connolly: Wind is in the sails of energy industryDavid Connolly: Wind is in the sails of energy industry

Daniel Gros: Europe’s new-look executive eyes geopolitical actionsDaniel Gros: Europe’s new-look executive eyes geopolitical actions

Joe Leogue: Commitment to football grass roots is laudable but devil is in the detail Joe Leogue: Commitment to football grass roots is laudable but devil is in the detail

Fergus Finlay: Bad behaviour goes unpunished for some, so it will continue to happenFergus Finlay: Bad behaviour goes unpunished for some, so it will continue to happen


Lifestyle

Ray Liotta never planned to be an actor. He only signed up for drama classes in college in a bid to dodge the more academic subjects, and didn’t make his first film until he was 30.Both sides now: Ray Liotta on his 40 year career

I am Jesus Christ! No, don’t worry, this writer’s ego isn’t quite that big. We won’t be turning water into wine. Rather, ‘I Am Jesus Christ’ is the name of a new game just announced on Steam.GameTech: The new video game 'I am Jesus Christ'

Johnny ‘Fang’ Murphy, frontman with Cork group The Stargazers, tells Ellie O’Byrne about the cultural milestones on his musical journey.Getting into the swing of things: Johnny 'Fang' Murphy on his musical journey

Clean skincare is cleaning up, but does it even mean anything in particular?The Skin Nerd: When clean does not always mean better

More From The Irish Examiner