HSE needs to pull their ‘weight’ in supporting local drug and alcohol groups

HELP 200 referrals to support group in eight months

There’s been criticism of the lack of funding provided to local drug and alcohol support groups. Members of the Cavan Joint Policing meeting heard of issues providing services, like those offered by the Cavan and Monaghan Drug and Alcohol Service.

Zoe Wells, service co-ordinator of CAMDAS, said the service received 200 referrals between January and August of this year - the majority being linked to alcohol use.

However, she also said “resources are an issue” and the funding allocated to the service limits the amount of work it can carry out across Cavan and Monaghan.

She said there is a consistent number of people waiting for supports locally and there is little prospect of making progress if staffing levels don’t increase.

Ms Wells said the majority of referrals came from County Cavan as only a part-time service could be provided in County Monaghan.

Co-ordinator of the North East Drug and Alcohol Task Force Andy Ogle said organisations are “struggling to make up the deficit in service infrastructure” in Cavan and Monaghan and services are finding themselves unable to meet demand.

He warned that local services may not see an increase in funding in the coming years due to the impact and costs associated with the Covid pandemic, saying services will “need to make the most of what’s there”.

Fine Gael Councillor Carmel Brady hit out at the HSE saying it is “reluctant to engage” and it “needs to pull more of its weight”.

She praised those working locally but said the HSE needs to play its part in service provision. Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly said there’s a massive shortage in funding in a number of organisations. She mentioned the Family Addiction Support Network, which was only approved for a grant of €7,000, despite applying for supports worth hundreds of thousands.

“People really need to get real about the amount of money they’re putting into these services,” she said.

Mr Ogle said some organisations are not being taken seriously by the HSE and expecting volunteer-led services like FASN to provide supports was “not sustainable”.

He said up to €140,000 in funding is needed for the service to be viable and discussions are taking place with the group around the provision of services.

The developments follow the merging of the Cavan Drug and Alcohol Awareness (CDAA) group and Merchants Quay Ireland earlier this year. Former co-ordinator of the CDAA, Tim Murphy, had highlighted his concerns over the viability of the service in light of the lack of necessary funding being provided.

In 2019, he warned funding had remained static for the past eight years and this was no longer sustainable.

The board approved its winding down by the end of 2020.

Merchants Quay subsequently acquired the CDAA, with the merger complete in January of this year.

An official launch of the new service will take place in Cavan later this month. Zoe Wells, who took over as co-ordinator in April, told the JPC that service delivery had not changed since the merger.