Policy, Strategy and Frameworks

Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery

“A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland” – 2017 – 2025

Published in 2017 by the Department of Health, the vision for the strategy is to

"To create a “healthier and safer Ireland, where public health and safety is protected and the harms caused to individuals, families and communities by substance misuse are reduced and every person affected by substance use is empowered to improve their health and wellbeing and quality of life”."

The strategy presents an action plan under the following strategic goals:

1. Promote and protect health and wellbeing

2. Minimise the harms caused by the use and misuse of substances and promote rehabilitation and recovery

3. Address the harms of drug markets and reduce access to drugs for harmful use

4. Support participation of individuals, families and communities

5. Develop sound and comprehensive evidence-informed policies and actions

The HSE are named as the lead agency with responsibility for 24 of the actions in the strategy and are partners in many other actions. The HSE National Social Inclusion Office is represented on the Standing Sub-Committee for the National Drug and Alcohol Strategy, chaired by the Department of Health. 

The National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework

Rehabilitation emerged as a key issue during the lifetime of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. Arising from this a working group developed the Report of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation 2007 which mapped out rehabilitation policy and a strategy for integrated drugs rehabilitation services. Following this, the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework was developed in 2010 to provide “...a framework through which service providers will ensure that individuals affected by drug misuse are offered a range of integrated options tailored to meet their needs and create for them an individual rehabilitation pathway”.

In 2011, 10 sites piloted the rehabilitation framework. They did this so their experience could be used when the national framework was put in place. The pilot schemes used the National Protocols and Common Assessment Guidelines. 

In November 2013, the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College, Dublin, conducted an Evaluation Report of the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework Pilot. The evaluation assessed the quality and effects of the Framework and examined how useful people felt the Framework tools were.

The quality of the Framework tested well. The evaluation found that there was near universal enthusiasm for the Framework. People were optimistic that its aims could be achieved if commitments to the Framework were shared by all agencies.

A number of initiatives are currently being developed to support the implementation of the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework, including

  • A Competency Framework for Addiction Services and Homeless Services.
  • A combined inter-agency assessment and care-planning document (currently operational in 4 pilot areas and due for evaluation).

National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare

The National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare are the quality standards framework developed by Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in 2012. These National Standards apply to all healthcare services (excluding mental health) provided or funded by the HSE including, but not limited to, addiction services.

The National Standards are divided into 8 themes

  • Person-centred care and support
  • Effective care and support
  • Safe care and support
  • Better health and wellbeing
  • Leadership, governance and management
  • Workforce
  • Use of resources
  • Use of information

HSE Primary Care developed quality improvement and assessment workbooks for each of the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare themes. These workbooks have now been adapted for HSE and HSE funded addiction services. The workbooks are intended to support assessment teams in preparing for assessment against each of the eight themes. A matching exercise found that most QuADS standards were embedded in the National Standards SBHC. The suggested evidence listed for each standard includes evidence from the associated QuADS standards as appropriate. The workbooks were amended to include the small number of QuADS standards not included in the National Standards.

 Please access the HSE Quality Improvement Division for more resources on quality standards.                                       


To find a service in your area, use the National Directory of Drug and Alcohol Services on drugs.ie.

Download a list of Drug and Alcohol Task Force funded services (xlsx)