Sinn Féin Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin MLA (Foyle) has called for the establishment of a North West Addiction Taskforce to investigate how best to tackle a number of issues that have been making headlines in recent weeks.
Maeve McLaughlin said:
“Although not a recent phenomenon, recent events in our City have brought to the fore the reality of the devastation that drug and alcohol addiction and substance misuse has had on our communities. And those families directly affected by this addiction and misuse need to be reassured that we are listening and responding to their pleas for help.
“While the need for sensitivity is ever present, the last thing we should do is to proceed on the basis of the last tragedy. That is why I am calling for the establishment of a North West Addiction Task Force.
“While understandable, the use of recent tragic events to suggest that there are no facilities or that nothing is being done is unfair to the many excellent groups and organisations across the statutory and community sectors providing essential services. It can also contribute to the sense of desperation in which some of the most vulnerable people find themselves. This is not to say that more does not need to be done. But while organisations such as HURT, DIVERT, Foyle Search and Rescue, Northlands Centre, White Oaks and others need to be supported they are often working in isolation, thus reducing their effectiveness.
“I recognise that addiction, substance misuse, associated problems and resultant tragic circumstances are not the sole responsibility of the Health Services to address and that is why I am suggesting the formation of a Taskforce. We have also raised the issue with Derry City Council, EU Unit, regarding the possibility of European funding to assist these groups in their work on behalf of the community.
“A Taskforce would bring together, Families, Community and Voluntary sector, PSNI/Gardaí, Health Trust/HSE, Addiction teams/ Public Health Authority and other relevant bodies to develop a North West proposal / lobby for dedicated facilities. An obvious first task would be to initiate a full audit of existing services to ascertain where the gaps are.
“I am meeting this week, with the addiction team from the Western Trust and this issue will inform the basis of my engagement and I will impress on them the detrimental effect the closing of facilities in Omagh would have. Hopefully coming out of this meeting there will be a clearer view of what direction the on-going consultation process is pointing.”