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Tallaght services seeing crisis in community over crack cocaine, TDs told

The Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Health today.

Senator Lynn Ruane and co-ordinator of the TDATF Grace Hill at the launch of the task force's report
Senator Lynn Ruane and co-ordinator of the TDATF Grace Hill at the launch of the task force's report
Image: Marc O'Sullivan Photography

Updated Dec 1st 2021, 10:51 AM

COMMUNITY SERVICES NEED to be adequately funded to support people in areas negatively affected by drug misuse, TDs and senators were told today.

The Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health this morning to discuss substance misuse, the crisis it is creating in communities, and the work that can be done by community services if they are funded appropriately.

The committee, chaired by Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, heard from representatives of the task force, which published a report on drug use in the Tallaght and Whitechurch areas of Dublin earlier this month.

  • Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to investigate why people are waiting up to two years for a drug detox bed.

The task force’s report found that the number of people being treated for addiction issues in its projects has doubled in the last ten years, but it still believes it is only reaching 25% of the true need.

It said that community services in the areas are at “breaking point” and urgently need additional resources.

The current crisis

“Tallaght Drug & Alcohol Task Force is happy to share with the Joint Committee on Health the key findings of our research; not least the current picture of the crack cocaine crisis being experienced by the communities and drug services we work with,” a spokesperson for the task force told The Journal.

The presentation included input from the Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency organisation – one of the services that the task force works with – which helps people to return to a drug-free life.

Shane Hamilton, manager of the JADD Project in Jobstown, provided the committee with an overview of the work they are doing in response to the crack cocaine “epidemic” in west Tallaght.

Since 2018 crack cocaine has surpassed heroin to become the drug of choice in the area.

Hamilton also outlined to the committee what’s required to address the matter effectively and what the not-for-profit project could achieve with greater funding.

Due to funding constraints JADD does not know if it will be able to provide crack cocaine supports next year.

“The lack of clarity around funding is of major concern to JADD, particularly as it prevents us from planning services towards crack cocaine users,” Hamilton said.

I would say to the committee, that should this issue not receive the appropriate level of funding, the public health costs that could emerge will be significant, and would more than likely, outweigh the cost of an appropriate response.

“I would urge you to support our call for funding to keep individuals safe, to keep families in their homes, to keep children with their families, and to minimise the public health risks,” Hamilton said.

The task force report called for an additional €1 million in government funding each year to cover more staff, resources for alcohol support programmes, a detached youth work project, and expanding crack cocaine programmes.

Other measures that require funding are data collection to examine the issue and additional residential places.

“Even before the escalation of crack cocaine crisis and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in recent years, the drug and alcohol services and supports available to the people of Tallaght and Whitechurch were chronically underfunded,” the report outlined.

“During the consultation process, many local people raised concerns about the visibility of drug consumption, drug dealing, anti-social behavior, violence, intimidation, and the trappings of the drugs economy in certain areas across Tallaght and Whitechurch,” it said.

89% of people surveyed felt the situation was worse or much worse than it used to be, with 60% saying the visibility of drugs was fuelling the problem.

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Respondents identified cannabis, crack cocaine, and cocaine as the main problem drugs in their area, followed by alcohol, nitrous oxide and benzodiazepines.

“There are growing concerns about mental health issues in the community, including increasing numbers of suicides at above the national average and drug-related deaths; increased anxiety seen in young people whose parents misuse substances; increasingly erratic behaviour and poor mental health in crack cocaine users, and a huge emotional burden on children and grandparents caused by the impact of substance misuse in families,” the report said.

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