06 Oct 2022

New midland drug and alcohol problem service having an 'impact' in Laois and other counties

Two revamped services for Laois and other counties aiming to tackle drug and alcohol addiction

New drug and alcohol services launched for Laois and other midland counties.

New drug and alcohol services launched for Laois and other midland counties.

Two new linked drug and alcohol prevention and treatment support services for Laois and other midland counties are already having an impact according to those running the services. 

Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, TD launched the two projects today (Friday, October 13) in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.

During 2016 following an external evaluation of Drug & Alcohol funded Support Services in the midland region, HSE CADS (Community Alcohol & Drug Service) and the Midland Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force (MRDATF) restructured the Prevention and Treatment Support services across the region. 

As a result of same and following a public procurement process led by the HSE two new services were appointed to deliver a range of drug and alcohol support services in HSE Midlands Louth/Meath CHO to cover the region of Longford, Westmeath, Laois & Offaly.

The Extern MYDAS (Midlands Youth Drug & Alcohol Support) Project will deliver a Community based Under 18 Drug & Alcohol Prevention & Treatment Support Service for young people and families.  The range of services provided includes information and advice, counselling, family support, family therapy, key working and interagency case management.   It will also deliver a range of education programmes to relevant community, voluntary and statutory sectors in line with best practice.

Merchants Quay Ireland DATS (Drug & Alcohol Treatment Support) Project will deliver a Community based Drug & Alcohol treatment support for individuals over 18 years and families.  The range of services provided include information and advice,  family support, family therapy, needle and syringe exchange programme and harm reduction.  MQI are also in the process of establishing an Open Access/Drop In Service in Portlaoise.  This service will provide crisis intervention, key working and case management to service users.  It will act as a point of contact for service users, as well as an environment to learn harm reduction skills and access pathways to change through stabilisation or referral to treatment.

These services are co-funded and supported by both HSE CADS & the MRDATF in association with Longford & Westmeath Education & Training Board (ETB), through funding allocated from the HSE & the Drugs Policy Unit (DPU) in the Department of Health. 

The HSE says both services will complement and enhance existing treatment and prevention support services across the region with one of the main aims of the services to coordinate the care of individuals (both over and under 18 years) and families experiencing problems as a result of their drug and/or alcohol use.

Both Projects work on a ‘needs basis’, which means individuals can self refer or be referred by a parent/guardian, GP, Youth Worker, Social Worker or any other community, voluntary or statutory agency.  Those accessing the service regardless of location will be offered the same level of service with a Key Worker assigned to support the service user in line with their identified needs following assessment.

Mr Charlie Mack is CEO of leading social justice charity Extern who are operating the MYDAS project for Under 18s. He said the projects are already having a benefit.

“Staff in the Extern MYDAS project are already seeing the impact this project is having on the ground and also the positive reaction to it. It is allowing young people to seek community-based, voluntary, and non-judgemental support services for the very real challenges they are facing around their own drug and alcohol misuse, and that which exists in their own family," he said.

He added that Extern are proud to be delivery partners alongside Merchants Quay Ireland in these vital new services. He commend the HSE, MRDATF and LWETB for having the foresight in introducing both for the benefit of those people who need them most in the Midlands region.

Mr Tony Geoghegan, CEO Merchants Quay Ireland stated said MQI is delighted to be part of this new initiative bringing much needed and enhanced drug and alcohol services to people in the Midlands region.

"We are committed to developing best practice in service delivery and improving access to vital treatment services. We believe the partnership model, as exemplified in this new service, is the optimum approach to achieve these aims and will really help to change lives.  We look forward to working with our partners; the HSE, the MRDATF, the ETB, Extern and all other voluntary and statutory agencies in the development of these important services,” he said.

The Projects are holding information and briefing sessions in the midlands which will outline the range of services provided. The Laois event is scheduled for Monday, November 13 10.30am – 12pm at the Midlands Park Hotel, Jessop Street, Portlaoise.


Pictured L-R – Peter McEvoy, MRDATF, Siobhan Murphy, HSE, Danny McQuillan, Extern, Paula Byrne, MQI, Joseph Ruane, HSE, Charlie Mack, Extern, Minister Catherine Byrne, Tony Geoghegan, MQI, Liz Lavery, Longford & Westmeath ETB, Maria Fox, Longford & Westmeath ETB, Darren Conroy, Extern, Antoinette Kinsella, MRDATF, Fran Byrne, HSE CADS

Speaking in advance of the launch Catherine Byrne, TD Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy said Regional and Local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play a very important role in tackling problem drug use in local communities.

"I very much welcome the initiative shown by the Midland Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force and HSE CADS in reorienting services that are focussed on delivering person-centred community based supports to service users and their families across the Midlands Region," she said.  

Mr Joseph Ruane, Head of Primary Care Services, HSE Midlands Louth/Meath CHO said these newly developed services mark the amalgamation of partnerships and co-funding from both the HSE CADS & MRDATF which are two agencies with their own distinct ethos and regulatory bodies to support the delivery of these new services.  

"It provides for a service that is responsive to the needs of the region whilst providing for greater efficiency and effectiveness.  We look forward to working with both Extern & MQI to deliver these much needed services across the midland region,” he said.

Mr Peter McEvoy, Chairperson MRDATF said t he Midlands Drug Task Force is committed to supporting the development and roll out of these much needed services.

"I would like to thank the management and staff of both Extern and MQI for the commitment they have shown in relation to the delivery of these new services,” he said.

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