€1.9m allocated to Tallaght drug services to deal with crack cocaine epidemic
By Aideen O'Flaherty
THE coordinator of the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force has called on the government to restore funding for the service to pre-recession levels, as they deal with the growing crack cocaine epidemic in the area.
This follows the HSE stating that €1.9m had been allocated to drug programmes in Tallaght this year, securing the ongoing services provided by three local projects who set up pilot projects to tackle the rise in crack cocaine addiction in Tallaght.
The HSE stated this in response to a motion that was tabled by councillors Mick Duff (Ind) and Charlie O’Connor (FF) at Tuesday’s meeting of the Mid-Leinster Regional Health Forum.
In a joint motion, the councillors asked the HSE to acknowledge the work of three Tallaght Projects, namely JADD, New Hope and CARP, who have operated a pilot crack cocaine response programme over the past six months, through once-off funding from TDATF.
The crux of their motion was “that this Regional Health Forum calls on the HSE to provide funding, through the Addiction Services Budget, to allow these projects to continue with this important work.”
In response, Ann O’Shea, the HSE’s chief officer for Cho7, stated, in part, that: “The projects set up to provide services receive funding through their Service Agreements/Grant Aid agreements.
“The HSE are very supportive of the three Tallaght projects, JADD, New Hope and CARP, and will address their funding issues via the Service Arrangement and Grant Aid process.
“No additional funding was allocated to the HSE in 2019, but we will continue to monitor the budget allocation to all of the funded projects in Tallaght throughout the year, a total allocation of €1,905,344.
“There may also be the possibility of once-off funding becoming available to the HSE from the Department of Health in 2019.”
‘Epidemic of crack cocaine’
Grace Hill, the coordinator of the TDATF, told The Echo: “I welcome the motion, and we’re really proud that we were able to pilot those projects – that’s an investment that we made.
“But we don’t have any more to support emerging trends [in drug use] and nobody is listening to us about the epidemic of crack cocaine.
“The HSE’s addiction services are primarily a methadone service, but we’re dealing with polydrug use. Why are we working on methadone projects when there are more drugs than heroin?”
Ms Hill added: “We’re really proud of the work we’ve done with the pilot projects, but we’re finding that more intensive work is needed.
“Crack cocaine users live a chaotic lifestyle, and there is a link between female users and sex work, and that has brought a new layer of complexity.
“This client group needs to be followed-up on daily, but we’d need the funding to hire someone to do that – we can’t do that within the existing budget.
“These frontline services are being stretched on a reduced budget as we’ve had no restoration [to pre-recession levels of funding].
“It’s not acceptable, and you can’t deliver an efficient service on the ‘maybe’ promise of additional funding as a once-off.”
A spokesperson for Minister Catherine Byrne told The Echo, in part, that: “Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force receives funding of approximately €1.2m from the Department of Health and the HSE annually.
“Within the limited envelope of resources available for drug and alcohol services in 2019, the Minister is considering options for the provision of additional funding for addiction services and Task Forces.
“The Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force, along with the other 23 Task Forces, are represented on the national oversight structures for the national drugs strategy.
“In addition, Minister Byrne regularly meets with individual Task Forces.”