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Call for more funding to tackle 'tsunami' of crack cocaine addictions in Tallaght

Two Tallaght support groups warned that they may have to shut their crack cocaine services down from New Year’s Eve.

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THE LEAD OF a local Dublin drugs taskforce has asked the minister of state with responsibility for the national drugs strategy to visit Tallaght or to meet their group, following numerous warnings about funding needed for addiction services in the area.

It comes after a press release was issued from the Department of Health yesterday, suggesting that the two group’s crack cocaine services would continue and detailing funding given to the groups recently. 

Junior minister Frank Feighan said in the release that two Tallaght community drugs projects “are continuing to provide services, including crack cocaine services” after the groups warned over Christmas that they would need additional funding to continue.

At the end of December, the two Tallaght support groups said they may have to shut their crack cocaine services down from New Year’s Eve onwards unless additional funding is provided to them.

But the co-ordinator for the Tallaght drugs group, involved in providing services on the ground, says specific funding is still required to tackle the volume of crack cocaine addiction issues in the area.

“I don’t want to be petty, what we want is for them to talk to us. Let’s stop with the press releases and maybe talk to us – we want a meeting with the minister [Frank Feighan],” Grace Hill, Co-ordinator of the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force told The Journal.

The Department of Health confirmed to The Journal that the minister has requested that a visit be facilitated when it is safe to do so in relation to Covid-19.

The Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force is one of 14 local drugs taskforces set up in 1997 to facilitate a more effective response to substance misuse.

Hill said the minister of state had said he’d come out to Tallaght before Christmas, but that didn’t happen. Since then, a report was issued saying that there was a “tsunami” of crack cocaine addiction in the Tallaght area.

The report found that in 2021, the number of people using TDATF services because of crack cocaine addiction was among the highest in the country – and about about one third of those were women.

The report said a greater Garda presence was needed due to what it estimates as a 75% increase in drug-related crime since 2018, including the intimidation of women by dealers.

Following that report, a warning was aired over Christmas that the two Tallaght project’s crack cocaine services may be wound up, and there has been no contact from the minster.

“People feel disheartened and disappointed,” Hill said. 

“We want to help these people because it’s a huge issue – Tallaght is awash with drugs.”

The two local groups

The Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency (Jadd) has been visiting crack-cocaine addicts, many of whom are vulnerable, twice a week since September with food supplies, clothes, and clean equipment.

The Community Action Response Programme (Carp) based in Killinarden works specifically with women addicted to crack cocaine.

In a report last month, the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force (TDATF) said that one third of those seeking help for crack cocaine addiction are now women.

The report said that funding of €190,000 would be needed to maintain the two projects.

The funding

Today, the Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan said that Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependency (Jadd) and Community Action Response Programme (Carp) are to continue to provide services after receiving a funding boost.

The Department of Health said that Jadd receives annual funding of €364,000, including an additional €70,000 since August 2021 to support clients attending HSE methadone treatment services.

Carp receives annual funding of €170,000, including an additional €20,000 since quarter 4 of 2021 to provide services for women who use crack cocaine, it said.

Although Hill accepts that extra funding was given at the end of 2021, she says that it’s not new funding specifically for crack cocaine services, which are in huge demand. 

Hill said although the State is providing funding for harm reduction – “they provide PPE, crack pipes and needles” – what is announced is not new.

“They mentioned an extra €20,000 they gave us – they did give that, but as far as we’re concerned, that’s all they have given.

“They’re not confirming any additional funding, and nothing exclusively for crack cocaine, it’s for methadone and crack cocaine.”

The two crack services began as pilots in 2018, she said, but that they are not “static services”. Hill says they have been “drip-fed” funding for years since.

This is a huge issue, and that’s not a sustainable service. They support the projects in other ways, yes, but is there a sustainable crack cocaine service? There is not.
They fund crack pipes from a harm reduction point of view – are they funding what is an adequate response? No.

“What we’re saying is, the minister [for the national drugs strategy] hasn’t engaged with us since we launched our report in November, or the press release on funding in December. Everything put out there lacks the urgency we need, if they think they’re funding a one-stop-shop for drugs, they’re not.”

She added that the drug support teams have “an excellent relationship” with the HSE locally. 

Minister Feighan said in his press release on Monday:

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“‘I am a strong supporter of community services as they are accessible, flexible and responsive to local needs, and welcome assurances that both Jadd and Carp are continuing to provide vital services and supports for people in Tallaght.

The HSE have confirmed these two projects will receive a combined annual funding of €530,000 in 2022. This includes an additional €90,000 provided in quarter 4 of 2022 to support an expansion of services. The HSE will consider further requests for funding as part of service-level agreement reviews in 2022.

The Department of Health also said that projects in Tallaght will also be eligible to benefit from the €240,000 that has been allocated to Community Healthcare Dublin South West & Kildare as part of a new €2m fund to enhance community-based drug and alcohol services, as well as forthcoming funding for communities affected by crack cocaine.

Hill told The Journal at a previous meeting that the minister had “made it clear” that the €240,000 additional funding would not be for crack cocaine, “which gave us false hope that more funding was coming”.

In a statement to The Journal, the Department of Health said that as was “highlighted in a press release yesterday”, “it has been confirmed to the Department of Health that all existing HSE funded drug services in Tallaght, including crack cocaine services, are continuing and no services have ceased due to a lack of funding”. 

The Department repeated the above information in relation to the €240,000 in funding, and added that services “will be identified, and funding allocated on a population-needs basis”.

Drug and alcohol taskforces will be centrally involved with their local community healthcare organisations in deciding how this funding will be spent and in commissioning the services. 

The Department of Health has said that Minister of State Frank Feighan has asked the HSE to facilitate a visit to local drug projects in Dublin South-West, when it is safe to do so from a public health perspective.

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