Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: a partnership and evidence-informed approach to developing the new Irish health led, National Drug Strategy.

Harm Reduct J. 2020 Jan 08;17(1):3

Authors: Comiskey C

BACKGROUND: Policy development by partnership is difficult, however, ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery- A health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’ hailed a new era. This policy was based on an agreed philosophy and core values across a 21-member partnership and has stated a common commitment to a health-led response.
METHODS: To drive strategy development, a cross-discipline committee with an independent Chair was created by the Minister. Members came from statutory, voluntary, community, research and service-user organisations. A consensus-based, partnership approach was taken to developing the policy and the action plan. Over 18 months of debate, a public consultation, focus groups, evidence reviews and an external expert review were conducted. Evidence was reviewed by the committee and following a very robust debate, a set of priority actions and responsible organisations were established.
RESULTS: Nineteen meetings were held. Epidemiological indicators illustrated that cannabis use, young people, chronic opiate use, mortality and geography were a priority. Almost 3000 individuals/organisations responded to the public consultation and themes arising were, supply-reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. The evidence review found that evidence was weak or lacking. The focus groups addressed priorities in supply, education, prevention, continuum of care, evidence and best practice. Finally, the expert review examined structures. Significant contentious debate arose around the initial terms of reference and the authority of a member to agree to an action on behalf of a ministry. While not all members were fully satisfied with the strategy, all welcomed the commitment to the health-led approach. An implementation committee was established, a tender for the first medically supervised injecting facility was issued and a sub-committee to explore decriminalisation was formed.
CONCLUSION: A key recommendation from the process was to ensure that all voices had an equal opportunity to be heard and to ensure that priority actions identified from the wider sources of evidence were not lost during the extended process. The breath of the partnership aided this. While we have succeeded in developing a sound strategy, success will depend on continuing support from the partnership and appropriate resourcing from the ministries.

PMID: 31915012 [PubMed – in process]

Source: ncbi 2

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