Call for local drugs task forces to be ‘adequately’ funded

Anti-social behaviour, drug debt intimidation, open dealing, and gangland violence are undermining the ability of heavily disadvantaged communities to function, according to local drug projects.

In a submission to the National Drugs Strategy 2017, a coalition of community drug projects called for a concerted reinvestment by the State in local drug structures — structures which have been decimated by a cumulative 37% cut in funding over a six-year period.

Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign said that since 1996 — when current drug structures were set up — the drug problem in economically marginalised communities had become “chronic, deep-rooted, and embedded”.

It said that a community drug problem developed where there was both a high concentration of drug problems and a lack of resources to address them.

A survey conducted by the organisation in September 2016 of local drug projects found that the most common drug problems in their communities were:

  • Anti-social behaviour (90%);
  • Drug-debt intimidation (87%);
  • Suicide (73%);
  • Open sale of drugs (67%);
  • General health problems (67%);
  • Gangland activity and violence (60%);
  • Fear in the community (60%);
  • Drug-related deaths (57%).

The submission expressed concern at the “normalisation” of drug use and drug dealing, the day-to-day social nuisance caused by it, and a reluctance by locals to use community spaces such as parks.

It said significant levels of intimidation and fear keep “communities quiet and passive”.

It added: “This ‘normalisation’ has a huge negative impact on community spirit and pride, community relationships and social networks, social capital and community resilience, and as a result undermines the community’s capacity to engage and respond.”

Citywide called for a link to be reinstated between the new National Drugs Strategy and the National Social Inclusion policy.

It wanted local drugs task forces to be “adequately” funded and for gaps in attendance by certain agencies and departments to be addressed.

It said the ‘parent department’, as in the Department of Health, should hold the other departments to account for delivering actions.

Citywide said community groups were now dealing with an “increasingly complex and chaotic drug problem” involving a mix of drugs.

It said projects reported that alcohol, cannabis, and prescription tablets were the drugs causing the most problems in communities, followed by cocaine, heroin, crack, and new psychoactive substances.

The submission said community services were consistently reporting an “increasing level of mental health problems amongst people using drugs”.

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