Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 27 February, 1997

Written Answers. - Drug Treatment Services.

91. Mr. Lenihan asked the Minister for Health the general policy on the use of mobile treatment units for the medical care of rehabilitating drug abusers in place of community-based treatment centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5501/97]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick-East): International experience has shown that mobile clinics can be a successful part of treatment programmes for drug misusers. The services offered by such clinics can range from methadone maintenance programmes for stabilised drug misusers to harm reduction programmes, including low threshold methadone doses for chaotic drug misusers. Services do not include rehabilitation. The mobile clinic is intended to complement the services provided in the community-based treatment centres and by general practitioners. The important consideration in the type of programme to be provided is that clear operational policies be drawn up for the clinic and that, in addition, clear objectives, which would be subject to review, be defined.

I am satisfied that the Eastern Health Board's mobile methadone clinic, which commenced in the south inner city area in September, 1996, and which is now also operating in the north inner city, is being operated in a responsible fashion, with clear objectives and involving the support of both the Garda Síochána and local communities. It is proposed to operate in further sites and consultations are being held with the local community in each case regarding the selection of suitable locations.

The board has worked closely with the Garda Síochána in relation to the locations and movements of the vehicle. The board has carried out any recommendations made to it in relation to security and it is satisfied with the arrangements [1251] which have been put in place for the clinic, while it is both stationary and mobile.

The clinic provides a service only for people who have been assessed by a consultant psychiatrist. If these people are deemed suitable for treatment, they receive the treatment from staff who are specifically assigned to the clinic. These include three general assistants and two nurses. An outreach worker from the area also attends the clinic for their particular area.

Because the clinic is operating within clear guidelines and protocols I am satisfied that it poses little or no risk to local communities. Indeed, the provision of drug treatment services to addicts in their area, should allow these individuals to become stabilised and therefore no longer need to become involved in criminal behaviour to feed their drug habit.