An evaluation report commissioned by the HSE says that up to 150 “entrenched” homeless drug users come into contact with gardaí every day in Dublin city centre.
The report on the Assertive Case Management Team (ACMT) Pilot was published yesterday at a launch attended by drugs strategy minister Catherine Byrne and Garda Assistant Commissioner for Dublin Jack Nolan.
“There is an estimated 100-150 people at any one time in Dublin who come to the attention of the gardaí due to their behaviour on the streets,” said Mr Nolan.
“Policing alone cannot address the root causes of this behaviour; and so many of those people find themselves caught in the lifecycle of the criminal justice system and the streets.”
He said the ACMT was established so that the staff on the frontline could work together to address the many issues each person presented with.
Ms Byrne said: “Like all cities, Dublin has its difficulties in terms of drug use and anti-social behaviour. We need to manage these issues in a person-centred and compassionate way.”
The programme was set up by the HSE, Dublin City Council, the Garda Siochána, and the Ana Liffey Drug Project.
HSE provided funding and the Ana Liffey Drug Project employed two workers, while gardaí supplied two members, one from each side of the city.
The report said the target group has “multiple and complex needs”.
These include: Addiction and public injecting; homelessness and rough sleeping; anti-social behaviour, begging and criminality; and mental health issues.
The report said that many of those targeted are well known to gardaí and the justice system.
The group are also targeted because they have a low level of engagement with services or are excluded from them.
The report said a key part of the programme is a consent form that participants are asked to sign.
It said this process is “slow and challenging” and requires “significant investment in time”.
It said 59 people (44 male and 15 female) were engaging with the programme in November 2015.
Of these, 47 are still in the programme and another five have moved on to other agencies. Six individuals could no longer be contacted and one has passed away.
Some 35 of the 59 said they have not previously engaged with such a system.
It said that given the “chaotic lifestyle” of many of the target group, it is difficult to track the impact of the programme.
Of the 59 clients, all were polydrug users and all have a criminal record. Some 60% were public injectors and 37% were rough sleepers.
Positive outcomes were: 39 of the 59 have accessed more stable accommodation; 29 have improved engagement with healthcare services; 26 secured access to drug/alcohol treatment; 27 have stablised in the community and 37 have reduced anti-social behaviour.
The report called for more investment in staffing: “Current outreach workers are overworked, constantly busy, spread too thinly and the case load is full.”
If staffing is increased the programme could take at least 100 people.
The report said there is a need for a crisis stabilisation/detox programme and, in line with Government policy, injecting rooms.