MESSAGE FROM CATHERINE BYRNE, MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE NATIONAL DRUGS STRATEGY
Over the past three months, Covid-19 has brought huge challenges, sickness and tragic loss of life. Our health service has responded swiftly to this pandemic. Healthcare staff and volunteers are doing immense work to stem the spread of this virus and protect public health.
I am acutely aware of the heightened risk for vulnerable people in our communities, including people who use drugs and people who are homeless. I know that you and your colleagues working in drug and alcohol services have been working tirelessly on the front line, making sure that these people are not forgotten and have access to safe and appropriate accommodation and the healthcare supports they need. The work you are doing is hugely important and greatly valued.
I want to sincerely thank you for your resilience, dedication and compassion during such difficult times. I want to commend the drug and alcohol task forces and local service providers, for coming together to ensure that drug and alcohol services can continue to support service users.
We know that addiction does not disappear at times like this, in fact in some cases it becomes more acute, and problem drug and alcohol use can increase. This can have a serious knock-on effect on families and levels of domestic abuse and drug-related intimidation. You are responding to these challenges and providing a lifeline for those who are at greatest risk and in most need.
Working in partnership with the HSE you are delivering vital information and advice around COVID-19 to people who use drugs, helping to reduce harm, prevent overdose, and improve access to OST. I acknowledge the increased pressure this puts on your organisation and I have asked my officials to examine how we can further support you in adapting to this challenging environment.
Thank you for being on call for Ireland during this unprecedented time. As you continue in your work, please take care of your own physical and mental health. Supports are available if you need them. We are in this together and we will get through it.
Drugs Policy & Social Inclusion Newsletter attached
Drugs Policy and Social Inclusion Unit, Department of Health. firstname.lastname@example.org