A Wake-Up Call

I listened this morning (january 20, 2022) to a recording of yesterday’s National Drug Strategy - Joint Committee on Health. Be warned as it’s over 3 hours long. Some interesting contributions however, and exchanges on old and new funding models were informative, although, perhaps conveniently, it failed to highlight that the new allocation of €240,000 per annum to each HSE–CHO area is for the whole area. Thus in CHO6 the allocation of €240,000 was not, as seemed to be the case, for Tallaght Drug Task Force alone, but was subject to agreement across six other task forces in Ballyfermot, Canal Communities, Clondalkin, Dublin 12, South Inner City and South west County Dublin/Kildare/East Wicklow. The same distribution applies for other CHO area allocations. 

   Many stakeholders will welcome that this change will deal with the need for a more equitable, population-based model for allocating new resources into community services. However, it does not address that existing community drug services — supported through local drug task forces — continue to be funded at less than 2010 funding levels, as meanwhile the overall HSE budget has increased by over 50% in the last six years.  

   By far the best input — in my view — was that from Gino Kenny TD. He was calm, he did not interrupt, and was not interrupted. He set out in a measured tone the need for a complete re-framing of the drug problem — to look at the bigger picture — not least by referencing the pending policy change coming from Germany. It is worth noting that Germany accounts for 19% of the EU population. 

   The need for a change in policy was also supported by Senator Lynn Ruane, who has also previously made clear her position on this matter. I was surprised to hear some other voices — I did not note their names — who at the very least stated that a debate was badly needed and that that there was a basic contradiction between claiming that the current drug policy was health-led, while at the same time criminalising those who had drug problems.

   Like it or not the global landscape is changing and everybody — politicians, service providers, communities — need to start questioning the assumptions underlying current drug policy, before the answers are handed down through some external international court or arbitrator called in to deal with the rights of Irish consumers to purchase goods that are legally available in other jurisdictions. A wake up call is badly needed (see also Thoughts on December 31, 2021 and Where Do You Come From?”)

See the archived debate 

 Barry Cullen 2018 | barry@kfcullen.ie | Banner photo -  Wild garden, Marrowbone Lane, Dublin 8.