Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for National Drugs Strategy has said that dozens of life saving drug programmes across the country face closure due to the threat posed by massive increases in insurance costs.

The Deputy was commenting following reports that many local and regional drug task forces are faced with increases of more than €4,000 to their insurance premium. These dramatic increases will potentially leave some needle exchange programmes with little option but to shut the service down.

“Needle exchange programmes operate nationwide and are a critical service that allows IV drug users to replace used syringes for clean ones. The measure is aimed at harm reduction and a 2015 HSE study found that their introduction in Ireland has coincided with a considerable reduction in the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C,” explained Deputy Chambers.

“According to the same study, some 13,700 people were engaging with needle exchange programmes and these numbers are only set to rise as polydrug use becomes more popular.

“One drug project operating under the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force has seen their insurance costs rise from €2,800 in 2013 to almost €10,000. Another in Bray, Co Wicklow has been forced to close their needle exchange programme after it was quoted €15,000 by their insurer.

“Everyone working and volunteering within the area of drug treatment and rehabilitation understands that developing proper community based services is the best way to effectively tackle Ireland’s crippling drug problem. Drug projects in the community, supported by local and regional drug and alcohol task forces are the most appropriate way to offer support to those most in need,” said the Dublin West based TD.

“Needle exchange programmes are an important part of the overall suite of measures required to help those most vulnerable who are struggling with addiction.

“The fact that lifesaving programmes are being forced to shut down is unacceptable. Minister Byrne needs to find out immediately why insurance costs have rocketed and what can be done to address this

“I will be calling on the Government to intervene to ensure drug projects can continue to provide crucial services in the Dáil later this week”,” he concluded.