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Mental health services failed woman, city Inquest is told

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A young woman (35) who had made a cry for help by taking an overdose of drugs more than a year ago, finally succeeded in her efforts last February when mental health services in the city failed her, it was claimed at an Inquest into her death.

The Inquest was adjourned to allow the Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, to substantiate claims made by the woman’s friends at the hearing in Galway Courthouse.

They wanted to know who prescribed all the medication that she used to take her own life, why was she not admitted to the mental health unit when she sought help last winter, and why she was not monitored after her first suicide attempt in September 2015.

The Inquest heard that she had been made homeless when the house she was living in was put up for sale about a year before her death.

She had stayed with friends, before getting a bed in the women’s refuge at Osterley Lodge in Salthill. During that stay she had made an attempt on her life, though, and had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance.

“After that things went bad, and in November/December 2015 she tried to check herself into hospital,” a friend said.

“Her mental health wasn’t good enough to stay there (at the refuge), so she left and tried to go to the hospital . . . she tried to check herself into the psychiatric unit but they wouldn’t take her. It is a systemic problem, she needed to be an impatient somewhere but didn’t get that help.”

Her friends said that the first attempt on her life was a cry for help, but that she was not supported in the aftermath, which eventually led to a successful attempt a few months later.

Another friend told the inquiry that the woman was staying with her in Salthill on the night of February 2 last, but when she did not return for dinner, the alarm was raised.

“I phoned her at 7pm, but her phone was off, and no one had seen or heard from her,” she recalled.

“From her Facebook page, she had not been online since 5pm. She had taken an overdose previously, so I became concerned for her when she didn’t return. At 11pm, I reported her missing at Salthill Garda Station.”

Her friends were told that the last known location of her phone had been in the Renmore area, where their search commenced. However, it subsequently emerged that she had been seen the following day outside Ballybane Church by a woman who recognised her from the ‘missing person’ posters around the city.

When her phone rang as they were talking, she said it was a friend, but no one knows who she spoke to.

Co-ordinated searches were commenced, and a search and rescue dog eventually located the woman’s body in Merlin Woods on the afternoon of February 10. A handbag and a plastic bag of medication were beside her.

She was pronounced dead at 3.30pm, and her remains were taken to UHG for a post mortem examination. Consultant pathologist, Dr Caroline Brody, told the hearing that she had overdosed after consuming a range of prescription medications and alcohol.

Dr MacLoughlin returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence that the woman died on the day she was last seen, February 3, from pulmonary oedema as a result of aspiration from an overdose.

The woman’s friends raised a number of concerns, among them that the co-ordinated search for her had been very slow and frustrating. They accepted the Coroner’s explanation that Gardaí had to be sure that she was missing before embarking on a massive search, but said that they were certain something was wrong from the beginning.

“How did she have that amount of medication, I’d question who prescribed the cocktail when she had attempted suicide in September – you’re throwing pills on top of the problem,” said another friend.

“She wanted cognitive behavioural therapy, but it was only available once a month, she wanted more – it was not enough for someone attempting suicide.”

One of the owners of the rescue dogs involved in the search told the inquiry that, in her experience, when people of a certain age go missing it is assumed that they died by suicide. She said of all the other areas she was familiar with that Galway was the worst.

“A lot of people seemed to have searched for help but didn’t get it – who is turning these people away?” she asked.

The inquiry was adjourned to January 27 to allow the Coroner time to contact the woman’s consultant psychiatrist, GP, and attempt to find medical records to show when she tried to check herself in for help.

CITY TRIBUNE

50 domestic abuse 999 calls to Galway Gardaí cancelled

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway’s Garda Chief has committed to a ‘root and branch investigation’ after an internal review unearthed over 50 domestic abuse calls that were cancelled by local Gardaí.

An internal Garda inquiry has revealed that nationally, members of the force cancelled between 3,000 and 4,000 domestic abuse-related ‘999’ calls between 2019 and 2020.

At a meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Monday, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley told members that the inquiry found 53 such calls in the Galway Division.

He said he had been tasked by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to sift through the calls and follow up on how they were handled by Gardaí.

“In relation to domestic incidents where calls were cancelled, I have 53 from my division. I am carrying out a root and branch investigation and perhaps at the next JPC meeting, I will be able to give an update of the findings.

“I have only listened to a number of the calls at the moment and I’d rather be in possession of the full facts before commenting any further,” said Chief Supt Curley.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillor claims dealers are using jet skis to bring drugs to Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Drugs are being delivered into the city by jet skis coming down the Corrib, a meeting of the city’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) heard on Monday.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said there had been reports of dealers using jet skis to come down the river from areas around Headford and Cong, dropping deliveries in the city without fear of detection.

“Do we have a Garda water unit in Galway City to deal with that,” asked Cllr Fahy.

The Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley, said he was not aware of the practice but if anyone had any information on these deliveries, they should bring it to Gardaí.

“We haven’t got a water unit in the city but there is one in Athlone that is available to us any day of the week,” he added.

This came as the JPC was informed that drugs seizures have soared in the city, with year-on-year figures for detection of dealing up 84% in the first five months of 2021.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Walk-in Covid test facility to open in city centre next week

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Galway City Tribune – A new walk-in Covid testing centre will open in the old tourist office off Forster Street next Tuesday.

The centre will replace the one at NUIG, where students were being encouraged to get tested without an appointment if they showed symptoms or were close contacts of somebody who tested positive.

It will be open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm.

The new location will be a more convenient base for people visiting the city to check for the virus over the coming weeks as the tourist season ramps up.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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