Drug-related incidents the cause of over 200 deaths in Tallaght area

By Mary Dennehy

downloadMORE than 200 Tallaght residents tragically died from drug-related incidents within the eight-year period between 2004 and 2012.

Despite this loss of life, the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce [TDATF] – which has the highest population centre [around 100,000] of the 13 task forces nationwide – remains eighth on the Government’s interim funding chart for local drug-task forces.

In 2014, there were 781 people in treatment across Tallaght’s community drug projects, the highest across all 13 local task force areas, with one project reporting that last year it had 200 clients accessing its needle exchange programme weekly – a tenfold increase from three years ago.

Figures also show that between 2004 and 2012 the Irish National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) recorded 214 drug-related deaths in Tallaght, with 33 of these deaths in 2011 and 29 in 2012 – figures for more recent years are not yet available.

According to the NDRDI, the majority of deaths were among young males – with an increase in poly-drug-related deaths.

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Poly-drug use was identified by local drug projects as an emerging need in recent years, with other emerging trends such as tablet use among young people and steroid and tan injecting, reaching “crisis levels”.

Despite an increase in demand on Tallaght’s drug projects, 13 full-time posts have been lost from TDATF services since 2009 alongside cumulative cuts since 2008 – including the task force’s administration budget being slashed from €25,000 to €10,000.

This month the task force sent a pre-budget submission to the Minister for Drugs, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin outlining a number of issues which are causing “deep concern” for the task force.

The sustainability of key community services and a lack of capacity to respond to emerging needs were cited as major concerns, with the task force stressing that its funding allocation does not match “the level of current need and substance-misusing population”.

Making funding available to target children and young people in risk was also recommended.

The submission also highlights the fact that there are less staff hours available to projects, with remaining staff working excessive unpaid hours, and the accrual of bank deficits.

Signed by TDATF Chair Eamon Dolan, the submission reads: “Task forces and related community projects by their very natures want to respond to emerging needs within communities and while we have been able to support the development of projects to a small degree in recent years, our response could not match the level of need due to limited resources.

“We very much hope that in 2016, at the very least, funding to Drug and Alcohol Task Forces will be restored to 2008 levels with a clear plan to adequately and permanently support the development of task forces and essential community and voluntary services from 2017 onwards.

“We believe it is time again to remember those most vulnerable in our communities and contribute to the provision of essential services to enhance their recovery, improve their health and increase the future prospects of our users.”

The task force also expressed its welcoming of alcohol under its remit in May 2014, with the TDATF currently working on its local alcohol action plan.

However, while alcohol fits well with the task force’s work in the area of poly drug use, it did not receive any additional funding for taking alcohol under its umbrella.

In the submission to the Minister, the task force said: “Despite our optimism and willingness to take on alcohol, our task force was very clear that we would be unable to facilitate substantial development in this area without sufficient, additional resources.”

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