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Minister Leo Varadkar

Health Minister aims to reduce drug-related deaths

The Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar has pledged to step up efforts to bring about a reduction in the number of drug-related deaths.

He was speaking as the 2012 figures from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index have just been published, the last full year for which data is available. It shows a small decline in the overall number of drug-related deaths, and the number of deaths in which heroin was involved also continues to decline.

“Drug-related deaths still remain at an unacceptable level, and every death is a tragedy in its own right. We need to continue our efforts to reduce the number of such deaths.

“The HSE Service Plan for 2015 includes an additional €2.1m for measures under the National Drugs Strategy targeting vulnerable problem drug users. These measures include enhanced provision for residential detoxification and rehabilitation facilities, and the mainstreaming of needle exchange facilities outside the Dublin area,” the Health Minister said.

This funding will also support a pilot Naloxone Demonstration Project which will increase access to naloxone for non-medical staff, such as care workers, family and peers of opioid users. Naloxone reverses the effects of drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone if someone overdoses. It is currently available on prescription only.

According to the World Health Organisation, increased access to naloxone for people likely to witness an overdose could significantly reduce the high numbers of opioid overdose deaths.

“In 2015, HSE mental health services will continue investing in posts for the homeless mentally ill, including up to eight posts in the Dublin North and South City areas, and in Cork City. These new posts will assist the community mental health teams in these urban areas, working with primary care and other health services, to engage with the homeless directly and through voluntary providers on the complex needs that arise with this
vulnerable group,” the minister added.

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