€ZERO funding increase for drugs in FF’s 2015 allocation – Varadkar

Kelleher shouldn’t throw stones while standing in a glass house

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has advised Billy Kelleher TD to consider his own party’s lack of focus on drugs before throwing cheap shots at Government policy and trying to politicise an area involving the most vulnerable patients.

“This Government can firmly stand over its record on drugs. More than €240 million has been provided across Government Departments and Agencies, including €29 million for local drugs initiatives in 2015.

“Last year the HSE spent €114 million to support the National Drugs Strategy. An extra €2.1 million has been provided in the HSE 2015 budget to assist vulnerable drug users, including enhanced residential detoxification and rehabilitation facilities.

“We protected funding for the drugs task forces in the Budget. Needle Exchange services have expanded outside the Dublin area, 130 community pharmacies have been recruited and trained, and extra mental health posts have been appointed.

“Yet Fianna Fáil’s 2015 pre-budget submission makes no reference at all to any aspect of Drug Treatment, rehabilitation, or prevention. There is no reference to existing or extra funding being allocated.

“The Government is committed to reducing drug-related deaths. Last September, 97% of clients over 18 accessed treatment within one calendar month of assessment, while 97% of those under 18 received treatment within one week of assessment. We want to bring that to 100%.

“In a major step for drug treatment, the HSE is preparing a pilot project to make the life-saving drug naloxone more widely available to treat overdoses. Naloxone reverses the effects of drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone.

“Targeted intelligence led operations by An Garda Síochána have led to significant seizures of illicit drugs. Drugs with a value of €41 million were seized in the first six months of 2014, which is higher than the same period in 2013.

“The Department of Health is starting work on a new National Drugs Strategy. There will be extensive consultation with stakeholders and the public on future priorities.

“I’d like to ask Billy Kelleher to study his own policies before he starts criticising what the Government is doing to tackle the drugs problem. But then I remembered that he doesn’t have any.”