HEALTH Minister Edwin Poots will meet with the PSNI and representative from community action groups on Thursday to discuss recent deaths which have been linked to drugs.
Up to nine young people have died in Northern Ireland in the last few weeks.
At first it was believed thought that a green ‘Rolex’ pill with a castle or crown logo, up to five times as strong as Ecstasy, caused the deaths.
However, it was later established that no single killer drug was responsible.
The DUP Minister will be updated by police on their work in drug prevention and tacking drug dealing.
Police chiefs denied claims by the Minister that he wouldn’t be surprised in the police were protecting small time dealers to catch those controlling the drug importation.
Mr Poots will be joined at the meeting with representatives from FASA (Forum for Alcohol and Substance Abuse), and ASCERT (Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training).
“We need a coordinated and protective response to prevent tragedies like the ones we have seen in recent weeks,” said the Minister.
“I am keen to ensure that groups like FASA and ASCERT can use their influence in the community to work closely with the PSNI in the fight against drugs.
“FASA and ASCERT are to be commended for the vital work they have undertaken at local level on this issue and I am keen to continue engagement with community groups to tackle this problem, which brings misery to so many people and their families.
“Substance misuse can have a very real and damaging effect on people’s physical health and wellbeing, as well as their mental health, relationships, family, friends and community.
“As Health Minister, I have seen all too frequently the devastating impact that substance misuse can have on our society – from the health and social care system, to the economy and the criminal justice sector.
“We need to remember that every drug-related death is an individual tragedy, and my thoughts are with the families of those individuals affected.”
Police said eight deaths – five alone in east Belfast – of young people in their 20s and 30s were “personal tragedies”.