'Joined-Up Approach' To Tackling Substance Use In NI

Northern Ireland needs a 'joined-up approach' to tackling substance use following an increase in drug and alcohol related deaths over the last 10 years.

The recommendation is made in the latest publication from the Public Accounts Committee report on Addiction Services in Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the report, Health Minister Robin Swann, said: "I welcome publication of the report on Addiction services today. Addiction is a societal issue and if as a society we are to truly address addiction, we must also tackle the fundamental problems that can lead a person on that path.

"We are continually reminded of the suffering and tragedy that alcohol and other drugs cause to individuals, families, and communities across Northern Ireland. That is why my Department pushed forward with launching the new Substance Use Strategy for Northern Ireland. This strategy was co-produced with service users and their families, key stakeholders and other government departments and is aimed at preventing and reducing the harm related to substance use."

The Minister acknowledged there are many challenges facing government in relation to tackling addiction.

He said: "The Public Accounts Committee in its report has highlighted this is not just an issue that can be tackled by Health alone. These are multi-faceted problems that exist across the whole of our society – poverty and deprivation; homelessness; employment and economic development; mental health and trauma; paramilitarism, community relations and justice; educational attainment, inequalities; and the legacy of the past. Tackling these societal issues will require the whole Executive to operate collectively."

Concluding, the Minister thanked the Public Accounts Committee for its positive comments on the new substance use strategy and its support for funding to implement it.

In its report the PAC states: "The Committee was encouraged by the direction of the new strategy, in particular its emphasis on a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach to tackling the harms caused by substance use. However, commitment on paper must be backed up by actions and funding to implement the strategy. It is clear that on their own, interventions made by the Department of Health (the Department) will not be enough to deal with the large and growing harms, and the Committee calls for joined-up action, led by the centre of government, with a clear objective of reducing drug and alcohol related deaths."

The Department of Health and key stakeholders will now consider the report in detail and take forward action to address the issues as appropriate.

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