The HSE has acknowledged that a new alcohol and drug addiction treatment centre proposed for St Fintan’s Hospital will have to be kept separate from all other services, due to the possible aggressive nature of some of the users of the centre.
In a report forwarded to Laois County Council, the HSE said it would be “proper and fitting” for the Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS), which is currently based at Coote Street Portlaoise, to be relocated to a purpose-built 400sqm treatment and therapy centre on the hospital campus on the town’s Dublin Road.
“Locating the service at St Fintan’s campus makes sense for several reasons,” the health authority said, going on to say that CADS is both a local and regional service and the hospital is easily accessible and reasonably central.
However, the HSE report acknowledges that some of the users of the proposed centre may be of an aggressive nature, and it is expected that inmates of Portlaoise Prison will be attending CADS upon their release as a step down programme.
CADS’ current home, a terraced Victorian four-storey building on Coote Street, has been deemed to be no longer suitable, due to a lack of space and inadequate facilities. To ensure the service works properly, the HSE said staff need training in dealing with “aggressive behaviour” by clients attending.
The HSE also claimed that the service has to be on the ground floor, to ensure clients do not have to go upstairs as some clients may be under the influence of drugs/alcohol or both. Rooms also have to be appropriately soundproofed, as raised noise levels could “aggravate the atmosphere”. It is also proposed to establish an on-site needle exchange service, along with the safe disposal of used syringes. No methadone dispensary is proposed in the building, as this service is currently supplied by local pharmacies.
The authority stresses that it is important that CADS would not be accessible or in proximity to other departments in the hospital. There are a number of elements to CADS, including methadone maintenance, counselling, alternative therapy, rehab and aftercare, family support, harm minimisation, Outreach etc. So for security reasons, CADS must be physically separate from the rest of the hospital.
If approved, the centre would house various local and national addiction services under one roof, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Midland Simon, Anna Liffey Drug Project, and Merchant’s Quay Ireland.
However, as most of the land on the hospital grounds is zoned for Community, Education and Institutional use, with the exception of an area at the west end which is zoned Amenity and Open Space, a material contravention of the Local Area Plan is being sought. Laois County Council previously said that the proposed development “is not acceptable in principle” due to this zoning.
A decision is due on the HSE’s planning application from Laois County Council by May 1.