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Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 140. Mr. G. Mitchell Information on Gay Mitchell Zoom on Gay Mitchell  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  the extent of methadone treatment waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3789/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The provision of drug treatment services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards. However, I have been informed that at the end of December 2001 the number of people awaiting methadone treatment in the Eastern Regional Health Authority region was 428. Currently in centres outside the eastern region there are 38 people on waiting lists for methadone treatment. At the end of December 2001 there was a total of 5,865 people on the central treatment list, an increase of more than 800 on the December 2000 figure.

A new national drugs strategy was published by the Taoiseach in May of last year which contains specific targets and 100 actions. One target of the national drugs strategy is that drug misusers have immediate access to professional assessment and counselling, followed by commencement of treatment as deemed appropriate, not later than one month after assessment.

The Methadone Protocol was introduced in October 1998. Since that time 169 general practitioners and 243 pharmacists have joined the [1616] scheme. The participation of these professionals is crucial to the successful operation of the scheme. However, the lack of recruitment of significant additional general practitioners and pharmacists into the methadone protocol was a significant constraint last year. Health board officials are working with the Irish College of General Practitioners to explore ways of encouraging GPs to become more involved in methadone treatment.

The difficulties which the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health board experience in gaining acceptance for the provision of local drug services are well known and in some instances are severely limiting the capacity to respond to actual need in the areas. Health boards will continue to work to develop effective responses to the problem and I am confident that the implementation of the stategy will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of all those affected by drug misuse.

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