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A Better City For All – SRG Report

  • Thu 21 June, 2012

As you may be aware, during the past two years tackling anti-social behaviour has become one of a main focuses of Dublin City BID. The solutions to this serious problem in Dublin city centre are complex and require a multi-disciplinary approach. Simple sound bites and finger pointing will not yield the desired results. In June 2011 the Strategic Response Group (SRG) was set up as a partnership approach to address public substance misuse and perceived anti-social behaviour in Dublin city centre. Dublin City BID has been a key driver representing the businesses of the city centre on this group. Today (21/06/2012) the SRG published the most comprehensive and innovative multi-agency report and set of recommendations to date, on this topic and was formally launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague.

The report ‘A Better City for All’ acknowledges that for historical reasons there is a clustering of drug treatment and homelessness services in or adjacent to the inner city. While these services play a major role in the provision of effective treatment to problematic drug users, the report recommends that there should be greater access to prompt provision of treatment options nationally and that people should be treated and accommodated in the most appropriate setting for their circumstances and provided with support services as close to their home as possible.

The findings and recommendations of this report are available to view from Dublin City BID’s homepage or by clicking here.

Speaking at the launch of the report Dublin City BID CEO Richard Guiney called for the support of Government to help implement the recommendations in the report: “The issue of substance misuse and related perceptions of anti-social behaviour is a major issue for Dublin city businesses. For 36% of the population it is the thing that they dislike most about the city and for many it is a reason why they can’t enjoy and feel comfortable in our capital city. We now need this process to maintain its momentum, and BID to remain a key driver of it. We need to turn these recommendations into actions, to improve the situation on the ground for businesses, delivery agencies and of course all those who live, work and spend time in Dublin City Centre.

The agencies represented on the group include Ana Liffey Drug Project; An Garda Síochána; the City Clinic (HSE); Drug Treatment Centre Board; Dublin City Business Improvement District; Dublin City Council; Dublin Simon Community; Merchants Quay Ireland; the North Inner City Drugs Task Force; the South Inner City Drugs Task Force; Union for Improved Services, Communication and Education (UISCE).

The report takes a holistic approach to address the issues of the city centre. The group have set out their recommendations in the short, media and long term and under the headings of treatment, rehabilitation, homelessness, policing responses, planning and urban design, legislation and regulation and implementation.
Key recommendations of the report include:

• There should be greater access to and prompt provision of treatment options nationally. People should be treated and provided with support services as close to their home as possible. The treatment provided should be of the level of complexity required to meet their needs. This should ensure that people are only using services that are essential and appropriate to meet their needs and that are local to their place of residence. This should involve a relocation of service provision for some people from the city centre area where possible.

• Gardaí need to be given powers to deal with street dealing of prescription drugs so as to initiate prosecutions. The SRG supports the current proposals by Roisin ShortallTD, Minister of State with special responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, to update the Misuse of Drugs legislation in relation to Benzodiazepines. Provisions should also be made for the scheduling of Z-Hypnotics (Zimmovane).
• Emergency accommodation should only ever be used in an ’emergency’. This is often not the case, due to a lack of suitable long-term housing options people often spend long periods in emergency accommodation. Private B&B’s are a form of emergency provision which are often not fit for purpose and are without regulatory provision.

• To discourage street-drinking, to reduce harm and to offer safer alternatives, accommodation models should be provided where people who wish to consume alcohol can do so in their accommodation under regulated conditions.
• Enhanced public lighting is required to increase public perceptions of safety in particular locations & in general street planning to predict potential use of public spaces.

• There is a need to strengthen the links between existing Local Drug Task Forces, particularly in the City Centre area (North Inner City, South Inner City). There is a need to explore a cross North Inner City Local Drugs Task Force and South Inner City Local Drugs Force Partnership Group with a specific focus on implementing the recommendations within this report at a local level.

• There is a need to make community-based residential crisis stabilisation/ detoxification unit(s) available. These should target people with problematic poly-substance use (including alcohol) and multiple needs i.e. public injectors, people with mental health issues and people who are homeless.

The issue of substance-related anti-social behaviour is primarily a public health issue and any sustainable long-term solution can only be delivered in that context. As a consequence, the recommendations contained within this report are aimed at investigating ways to deliver people’s treatment or accommodation needs in a way that can assure greater public support.

Speaking at the launch the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague said: “There is a serious problem with the sale and swapping of prescription drugs in Dublin city centre. We need to empower the Gardaí to prosecute in cases where offenders are found to be trading prescription drugs, and introduce a national protocol on the prescription of benzodiazepines as a matter of urgency to address problematic issues like repeat prescriptions. Drug users should receive care locally and Methadone treatment must be made promptly available, where the user lives.”

Commenting on the report, the Chair of the Strategic Response Group Johnny Connolly said: “This is the first time that all stakeholders including treatment centres, the business community, the Gardaí, Dublin City Council, the drug users forum UISCE and the local task forces have come together to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations and tangible actions to address this problem. Public commentary on this issue can often lead to an over-simplification of what is a very complex problem. The recommendations in this report are based on research and on the collective approach of professionals who have been working at the coalface of the drugs crisis in Dublin for decades.”

Dr. Des Crowley, City Clinic Amiens Street added: “The aims of the HSE drug treatment services are to attract and maintain drug users in services. The retention of services users in treatment is an essential element to addressing health and social care needs associated with drug misuse. Service users are treated through a continuum of care from harm reduction through to drug free residential recognising that opioid dependence is a chronic relapsing condition. Services are best provided as close to a service user’s home and in a setting appropriate to their needs involving the service user in their care plan and supporting them to achieve their agreed goals.”

The SRG was formed through the work of the Local Business Policing Forum Set up by Former Assistant Garda Commissioner, Michael Feehan and chaired by Former Lord Mayor, Councillor Gerry Breen.

The SRG brings together stakeholders from the services, healthcare, voluntary and business sectors and comprises:
• Johnny Connolly – Health Research Board (SRG Chair)
• Colm Browne – South Inner City Drugs Task Force
• Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy, Superintendent Sean Ward & Inspector Jo O’Leary – An Garda Siochana
• Dr. Des Crowley – City Clinic Amiens Street
• Charile Lowe, John McPartlan, Simon Brock- Dublin City Council
• Mark Kennedy – Merchants Quay Ireland
• Mel MacGiobúin – North Inner City Drug Task Force
• Niamh Randall – Dublin Simon Community
• Richard Guiney & Gerard Farrell – Dublin City BID
• Tony Duffin – Ana Liffey Drug Project
• Ruaidhri McAuliffe – UISCE
• Sheila Heffernan & Seamas Noone – Drug Treatment Centre Board (Trinity Court)