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According to information released by the HSE to the Medical Independent (MI) through the Freedom of Information Act, the Hospital in-Patient Enquiry (HiPE) scheme recorded over a dozen prisoners admitted to hospital over the three-year period. These admissions include both day and inpatients.
In order to maintain patient confidentiality, the data records that five cases or fewer were admitted in 2013, eight in 2014, and five or fewer last year.
The HSE said that while the 2014 National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol found drug use among prisoners to be far greater than in the general population, “significant improvement had taken place in drug treatment and access to services such as addiction counselling and nursing”.
“Methadone substitution treatment and addiction counselling (the latter provided by Merchant’s Quay Ireland) are among the key services for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems,” the HSE told MI.
“Drug abusers who arrive in prison include people who are at a different level of addiction, varying from those who abuse so-called ‘soft’ drugs to those who are deeply into ‘hard’ drugs, such as heroin. People entering prison vary from those who want to come off drugs, to people who may have tried and failed several times to come off drugs, to those who have no inclination to stop.
“More recently, a growing number of people being sent to prison are stabilised on methadone maintenance and wish to continue on maintenance while in prison and when they return to the community on release.”
Some will have been in contact with social workers, rehabilitation or other community-based services before entering prison.
Prison Service supporting care initiatives for prisoners aim to address social, physical and psychological consequences of drug misuse within prison and following release into the community.