Derry addiction task force to be set up

Sinn F�in councillor Elisha McCallion.
Sinn F�in councillor Elisha McCallion.

A new task force is to be set up in Derry to improve services for those struggling with addiction.

The move comes after it was revealed that more than 40 projects dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in Derry receive public funding.

Health Minister Edwin Poots revealed the figure in response to an Assembly question from Foyle Sinn Féin MLA and health committee chair Maeve McLaughlin.

In response to the figure Sinn Féin councillor Elisha McCallion said a working group is to be set up in Derry to bring together the work of existing groups and identify any gaps in provision.

Speaking to the Derry Journal Colr. McCallion said the group will be representative of the wide range of agencies and organisations involved with tackling addiction and will compile an in depth report on future planning.

“The conclusion we have come to is that there needs to be a holistic approach to deal with addiction in this city,” she said.

“Obviously there is quite a lot of good work being done by a range of different organisations but perhaps there is a lack of a joined up approach at times.

“A meeting will be held in early March and it is our intention that will lead to the formation of the task force.

“Its remit will be to do a mapping exercise to see what provision is currently in place and to identify any gaps.

“At this stage it appears there is a gap between tier three and tier four services, which involves immediate response to crisis situations.

“At the conclusion of that the task force will then have to come up with a clear vision of what needs to be done,” she explained.

Colr. McCallion said the working group will seek to build on the work already being carried out across the city.

“This is a big project and I would envision that it would take six months to complete.

“As well as identifying gaps, the task force would then have to come up with a plan that can be taken to the Executive.

“It is huge challenge but we believe it is necessary,” colr. McCallion said.

The colr. also said meetings have already taken place with a number of groups.

“We have written to a range of organisations inviting them to become involved and it will include the Western Trust, the Public Health Agency, and it will also include the Department of Education, the PSNI and the Western Education and Library Board.

“The community and voluntary sector, which is often at the coal face of dealing with addiction, will also have a key role to play.

“We want to bring everyone around one table to tackle this crucially important issue,” she said.