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Council wants Stormont to set up drugs task force

Paul McCusker

Belfast City Council has urged the Stormont Executive to set up a drugs task force urgently to tackle the rise in deaths from substance abuse in the city.

SDLP North Belfast councillor Paul McCusker brought the motion before Council last night. "This motion is in response to the startling increase in drug related deaths, which has increased by 40% since 2017 and more than doubled over the last 10 years," said Mr McCusker.

"It calls upon the Executive to establish a drug task force, led by the Ministers for Health, Justice and Communities, to co-ordinate and drive action to improve health outcomes for those people who use drugs.

"There are many things we can do to elevate the devastation felt across our community - safe injection rooms, prevention, quicker access to services and including crisis intervention.

"We also require an urgent review of current provision required to deal with an increase in drug and alcohol related deaths.

"I'm hopeful for the support of council colleagues tonight and we will continue to press the Stormont Executive for urgent action. We can no longer wait and watch the devastation being witnessed in every community."

DUP councillor Guy Spence said he had "hopes that all can unite on this issue".

PUP councillor John Kyle added he would "like to see this driven in a co-ordinated manner" and involve the PSNI and the Department for Education, but warned that any move towards the decriminalisation of drugs would be "extremely naive".

Belfast Telegraph