Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD have today attended the British Irish Council Summit, which has been taking place in Dublin since yesterday.
The two Ministers discussed substance misuse, alcohol and measures to improve the health outcomes for people who use drugs, in particular those at risk of overdose death with colleagues from England, Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.
This summit's main focus of discussion is on the health and social initiatives taking place in the North-East Inner-City Area of Dublin to combat substance misuse.
Minister Harris said:
Ireland is taking a number of significant steps in the area of substance misuse.
Alcohol advertising restrictions through the Public Health Alcohol Bill have recently come into force. We will roll out a new health led-policy for persons found in possession of drugs next year.
But we have much more to do. I was particularly pleased to have a meeting with the Scottish Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing from Scotland, Joe Fitzpatrick and discuss minimum unit pricing. This is an area I want to see progress on by the end of the year. Scotland's recently published analysis indicates that alcohol sales have fallen to their lowest level since records began in the first year of minimum pricing there.
Ministers also had an opportunity to discuss drug use and the stigma people living with addiction feel. Europe’s drug problem is going through a particularly dynamic phase. People are using a wider range of substances than in the past, and no part of this country is immune from this challenge.
We agreed we must take a health-led, person-centred approach to those in addiction and do everything we can to remove the barriers many people in addiction face. Our challenges are common but so too is our will and determination.
Minister Byrne said:
Today’s meeting of health ministers focused on the North East Inner City initiative, a Government-led response to a crisis situation where a community came under threat from drug related criminal activity. In tackling this serious issue in the NEIC it became clear that an integrated response to the health needs of people who use drugs was urgently needed.
Our National Drugs Strategy helped to shape this response, focusing on developing measures in the local area to support and enhance health and social care services for drug users, many with other complex needs, using a person-centred approach.
A huge amount of work has been undertaken by the HSE and local community and voluntary services, supported by the Department of Health, all working in partnership to develop a new model of healthcare firmly focused on inclusion.
This led to the opening of Ireland’s first Inclusion Health Hub in Summerhill, which demonstrates a really innovative approach to delivering better health outcomes in the community for people who use drugs, the homeless and other vulnerable groups.
The British Irish Council was established after the Good Friday Agreement and it sees the heads of state from all Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey meet to further promote positive, practical relationships among the islands and to provide a forum for consultation and co-operation.