Government plans to dissolve the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST) and use staff from the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to do the work could end up costing twice as much, campaigners have warned.
In a strongly worded letter to the junior minister with responsibility for drugs, John Curran, the heads of the country's drug task forces also express serious concerns that such a move will significantly undermine ongoing attempts to tackle the "drugs misuse crisis".
They also argue that the National Advisory Committee on Drugs should not be subsumed into the minister's office, as it is important that the "capacity to provide effective independent research and evidence of challenging issues is retained and not subject to constraints in terms of publishing information".
Writing on their behalf last week, the chairman of the Local Drugs Taskforce Network, David Connolly, stated that after a meeting of the heads of the 24 drugs task forces around the country in February, it had been decided to reject Curran's plans and to request him to "immediately reverse your decision" to dissolve the NDST.
"The proposed draft structure document… proposes that the department, through their existing staff with a new position of director for the Office of the Minister for Drugs (OMD), will take responsibility for all of the work undertaken at present by the NDST," the letter stated. "The estimated cost of this new office could be double the present annual cost of the NDST, which is €400,000. This is not justified in current circumstances."
The meeting concluded that dissolving the NDST is "not justified", the letter continued. They also argued that the proposals may lead to a "demotivation to local residents to participate on task forces".