National anti-drug plan launched

Alcohol is the top drug of choice in the Cayman Islands, followed by marijuana according to National Drug Council chief.

Joan Wes-Dacres, right

NDC director Joan Wes-Dacres, right, highlights the key objectives of its anti-drug strategy plan as chair Julene Banks looks on. Photo: Shurna Robbins

The National Drug Council announced it four-year strategic plan, which was recently approved by Cabinet to combat drug abuse and trafficking at a recent press conference.

The strategic plan seeks to enlist multiple agencies including drug rehabilitation, health services, youth organisations, law enforcement, probation and border control, said the Director of the National Drug Council, Joan West-Dacres.

‘This plan addresses both illegal and legal substances,’ said Ms. West-Dacres. ‘To this end it seeks to accomplish the following three general objectives: preventing illicit drug use; treating those with drug dependencies; and combating the availability and distribution of illicit drugs on and within the islands.’

In the last five years, Ms West-Dacres estimated government has spent between $5 and $7 million across multiple agencies in direct costs related to drugs. This does not count indirect costs, she said.

The complete document containing the framework of the anti-drug strategy was not released to the public yet, but assurances were made that it would be made available shortly.

While Ms. West-Dacres acknowledged the strategic plan has very little in the way of hard statistics on just how pervasive the use illegal drugs are in the Cayman Islands, it does incorporate analysis from various agencies.

Drugs use and trafficking is a growing worldwide problem, which is changing the social and economic climate and the Cayman Islands follows those trends, said Ms. West-Dacres.

‘There has been an increase in social and economic factors, which make people, especially the young, more vulnerable and likely to engage in substance use and drug-related risk taking behaviour.

‘The broad consultative approach which we have taken in the development of this document seeks to ensure that the most comprehensive tools for addressing the national drug situation have been considered and articulated,’ she said.

This current strategic plan time period covers 2009 to 2013 and seeks to coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies in an efficient manner. The last national anti-drug plan covered years 1995 through 1999.

While Ms West-Dacres acknowledged that some of the objectives in the last plan were not fully implemented for a host of reasons, this new plan is a fresh start to combat drug abuse in the Cayman Islands. Moreover, it outlines roles of accountability and a reporting mechanism to ensure the strategic plan is fully implemented.

The National Drug Council Chair Julene Banks, Health Minister Anthony Eden and Chief officer Diane Montoya also attended the press conference.