Fighting cutbacks to highlight drug and alcohol awareness

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IMG_1293.JPGby Andrew Carey

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‘STAY drugs and alcohol aware’ was the theme of the first ever Mid West Regional Drugs and Alcohol Forum (MWRDAF) Awareness Week in Limerick.

The aim of the week-long event is to support those in need by keeping them informed of current issues in communities, and to explore alternative social outlets that are less likely to involve alcohol or drug consumption

Launching the event on Monday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan acknowledged the great work and commitment by the many agencies involved in tackling the issue of the misuse of drugs and alcohol in the Mid West.

Event co-ordinator Gearoid Prendergast outlined the importance of having a forum to tackle and advise on beating drug and alcohol abuse in Limerick.

“This is a key aspect of the work done as the forum was set up as part of the national drugs strategy which runs from 2009 to 2016 and is made up of three key sectors, the community, voluntary and the statutory in addition to public representatives.

“The forum’s main job really is to identify the issues on the ground in the Mid West and Limerick city included and address those issues through a range of interventions.

“There is obviously a cohort of people we have not identified or targeted yet but that is for a range and a number of reasons, but one of the key areas we are trying to work in is the community involvement.

“The community network programme and the SHEP programme are big plusses in terms of getting people from directly from communities that are affected addressing the issues and in turn those issues are being fed nationally from a policy context.

“There has been an impact in the last four to five years because our cuts have been bordering on 48 to 49 per cent in the last six years but unfortunately with that has come a reduction in some of the services, reduction in staff hours and then harder to hit communities have felt the full brunt of that in terms of substance abuse.

“It is important to mention alcohol and the use of benzodiazapem as there is been unfortunately there has been some increase but having said that, in the last 12 months there has been some level of decrease in that and some of the services are starting to come back to the strength they were a couple of years ago before the cuts.

Funding for 2015, according to Mr Prendergast, is to remain at the same level as this year and that is the first stall on cuts in six years he revealed adding that the group is hopeful of increase from now on.

The Limerick coordinator admitted that people who were most need of the services may have “potentially fallen through the cracks”, but said that there is a broader range of issues rather than just substance abuse.

“That is just the tip of the iceberg as there are mental health issues, suicide and early school leaving so there is a broad range of issues there that go beyond the substance abuse”, he said.