Budget commitment to fund drugs services gets a guarded welcome

Budget commitment to fund drugs services gets a guarded welcome

Frank Feighan, the minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, detailing the planned spend at the departmental Budget 2023 press conference last week. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Community drugs organisations have given a guarded welcome to funding commitments under Budget 2023.

However, they are still seeking confirmation from the Department of Health that a €3.5m provision in the National Drugs Strategy (NDS) budget will go to community drug projects.

CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign, an umbrella group of community projects, has long lobbied for cuts made to funding over six years during the recession to be restored.

Group co-ordinator Anna Quigley said it “appears on paper” that the budget was allocating €3.5m to maintain “existing” drug and alcohol services.

However, it has asked the department to clarify if that fund is specifically for community projects and that it will be funnelled through local drug taskforces, rather than through the HSE.

Minister spells out the details  

The minister of state with responsibility for the NDS, Frank Feighan, said he was providing €3.5m for community and voluntary providers “to maintain the existing level” of drug and alcohol services.

He said this was “the first allocation” to meet the cost of providing the existing level of services of recent years.

Mr Feighan said a total of €10.5m was secured for the NDS and inclusion health services and that €7m of this was for new developments, including €4m for the expansion of community and residential addiction services and €3m to improve access to healthcare services for socially-excluded groups.

He said €850,000 was provided to expand integrated care for high-risk users, with new residential addiction treatment services for women in Meath and Wicklow, and a community alcohol service in Mayo.

An additional €1m was earmarked for emerging drug trends and to expand community-based services, with €750,000 to mitigate the impact of drug and alcohol use on children and families.

Ms Quigley said CityWide’s “specific focus” for years has been on restoring funding, which was slashed during 2009 and 2014.

She said the destination of most of the funding now was decided centrally by the Department of Health and the HSE and no longer by local drug taskforces.

She welcomed the €3.5m funding for existing services but said: 

“On paper, it looks like an allocation, but we have asked the department for clarification to see is it specifically for community drug projects and will it be funnelled through local drug taskforces or will it remain with the HSE, in which case we won’t be sure where it will go.”

Anna Quigley and Tony Geoghegan of the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign with President Michael D Higgins. File picture: Jim Berkeley
Anna Quigley and Tony Geoghegan of the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign with President Michael D Higgins. File picture: Jim Berkeley

Michael Guerin, senior addiction therapist with Cuan Mhuire addiction treatment centres, welcomed the additional funding.

“Recently, we have been experiencing unprecedented demand, particularly in the areas of cocaine dependence, problematic gambling, polysubstance misuse, and alcohol problems, some of which may have their origins in Covid times,” he said.

He said they were worried the current economic challenges “may exacerbate” levels of addiction.

“Our organisation is under increasing pressure as the cost of inputs has grown exponentially throughout 2022,” he said.

• Visit CityWide.ie to learn more about the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign. 

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