Drugs and alcohol Task Force battles to maintain service

By Maurice Garvey

CLONDALKIN Drug and Alcohol Task Force (CDATF) saw their catchment area more than double in recent years, but they have battled to maintain services despite a significant reduction in State funding since 2008.

In 2012, the Department of Health carried out a review of the 24 drug task forces in the country, which saw their respective remits expanded.

Grugs Task Force 01

Jennifer Clancy, Co-ordinator of CDAFT

“Prior to this, our catchment was 50,000 but after it was expanded to include Lucan, Palmerstown and Newcastle, it was 117,000,” said Jennifer Clancy, Co-ordinator CDATF.

Task forces in the country, including Clondalkin, Tallaght and Ballyfermot, suffered serious budget cuts during the recession – cuts which have not been restored.

Ms Clancy continued: “Our budget was cut significantly in 2008 by 31 per cent. It has stablilized since 2014 but we are still operating on cuts. We are facing huge issues in our areas. Our work is flat out, it is difficult to respond as efficiently as we would like.”

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on National Drugs Strategy, John Curran, raised the financial challenges facing drug and alcohol taskforces with Minister of State for Communities and National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne in the Dáil two weeks ago.

“State funding allocated to support their work hasn’t increased in over six years,” said Deputy Curran.

“It’s become a growing challenge for staff to effectively respond to the rising demand for their outreach services let alone introduce new projects.

“Their work very often extends beyond dealing with addiction and in fact deals with anti-social behaviour, public drug use and drug litter too. They are under enormous pressure.”

CDATF services include treatment and rehabilitation services, and they have the fourth highest level of methadone users in the country, according to Clancy.

Last year, they teamed up with gardai and Irish Rail to increase awareness of support services available to crack and heroin addicts from the country, who are travelling to Clondalkin to buy drugs.

Ms Clancy said a growing population and plans for thousands of homes in places like Kilcarbery and Clonburris will bring added pressure on their budget, where every penny counts.

“We already have areas with special needs like Balgaddy and Ronanstown. It is difficult to do what they expect us to do, when we haven’t got the resources to do it.”

Deputy Curran said Minister Byrne is confident that the Department of Health will start to allocate additional funding to task forces in the coming weeks and months.

However, CDATF say they have yet to be informed of any such details.

“Bottom line is that if their progressive work is to continue making a meaningful difference to people’s lives or in communities nationwide, they must be consistently supported financially year-round,” he said.

Curran also criticised the “disappointing” 2019 HSE Service Plan, which he says, is “devoid of any mention of drug and alcohol task forces or what funding will be provided to them.”

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