We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

‘Health-led’ approach for drug-users in prison system

30 Sep 2022 / justice Print

‘Health-led’ approach for drug-users in prison system

The newly-built facility for the National Forensic Mental Health Service  (NFMHS) at Portrane, in north county Dublin, is to open in mid-November.

It will replace the existing Central Mental Hospital (CMH) at Dundrum.

The opening was announced as the high-level taskforce established to consider the mental-health and addiction challenges of those in contact with the criminal-justice sector published its report.

'Complex needs'

The taskforce was established in 2021 in a push for improved outcomes for those with complex needs.

Minister for State Mary Butler said that vulnerable people with mental-health and addiction challenges were over-represented in criminal-justice systems.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that as many as possible within this population are diverted away from the criminal-justice system, and provided with appropriate health and social-care supports,” she said today (30 September).

The taskforce makes 61 recommendations that emphasise the shared responsibility of Government departments and agencies.

Key actions include:

  • Progressive and empathetic approach by Gardaí to mental- health and addiction challenges, informed by awareness training,
  • Prosecution-avoidance policy for those with mental illness and addiction, through the adult-caution scheme,
  • Pilot specialist dual-diagnosis service to support prisoners with a mental-health condition and to deal with substance misuse in a prison
  • Tiered recovery-oriented mental-health supports,
  • Community-agreed discharge plans to reduce attrition.

Justice minister Helen McEntee said that a collaborative approach had underpinned the work of the taskforce


Health minister Stephen Donnelly said the report was “realistic and grounded”, with achievable recommendations and the potential to realise lasting positive changes.

Minister of State Frankie Feighan said that a health-led approach needed to treat people with compassion, not to punish them.

“I believe that the health-diversion programme we are implementing for people who are found in possession of drugs for personal use is a template that we can use for people who experience mental-health issues.

“Referring these individuals to the health system for an SAOR screening and brief intervention will benefit the individual. It will also lead to a more effective use of resources in the criminal-justice system,’’ he said.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland