New drug and alcohol initiative to target children

Debbie McDonagh, WRDATF Family Support Coordinator, Dr Carmel Devaney, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, Michéal Durcan Western Region Drug & Alcohol Task Force Co-ordinator, Ms Marion Rackard, Hidden Harm National Project. PHOTO: JOE TRAVERS

A major initiative to tackle drug and alcohol abuse has been launched this week in Galway – and one of its main focuses is to target young children as part of an early intervention initiative.

And it is hoped that a new strategy, the first of its kind in the country, will reduce the stigma of substance abuse as well as providing education programmes for schools, the general public and professionals who work with families.

The Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force launched their new support strategy for addicts and their families this week.

The strategy is to create greater awareness of the needs of families affected by substance use and to increase the visibility of supports available. It also encourages families of substance abusers to seek support.

The family support element of the new strategy is an approach to working with children, young people, parents and families which is based on a style of work which emphasises prevention, early intervention and a focus on the strengths of family members.

Deirdre Hurney, Chairperson of the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force welcomed the completion of this initiative and said it signified the importance of the Regional Family Support Strategy when she highlighted “it is well documented the distress and destabilising effect caused by addiction to the family unit.”

She added: “This strategy aims to develop a co-ordinated plan to improve and enhance support for individuals and family members living with such distress.

“It is the first of its kind in the country and reflects the commitment of the task force to supporting both users and their family members affected by substance misuse.”

Co-author of the strategy, Debbie McDonagh, who is family support co-ordinator, said that the initiative emphasises the need to support families due to the stress and chaos that substance misuse has on thousands of families in the West of Ireland

“Children, parents, carers, siblings and extended family members are impacted by substance misuse and we must develop targeted prevention, intervention and ancillary supports for them,” Ms McDonagh stated.

She said that this strategy was developed through an extensive consultation process with service providers and family members. She added that this strategy strives to be a cohesive and integrated plan for the task force and its partners aimed at meeting the needs of families affected by drugs and alcohol.

The task force has established its 24 goals for the next four years and aims to work with all relevant stakeholders to achieve these ambitions. The strategy will be overseen by the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force Family Support Working Group and will be reviewed on an annual basis.