Foyle MLA PAT RAMSEY says that as Derry’s problem with alcohol and other drugs continues to grow, we have to provide the facilities needed to help people - before it’s too late
Recently I asked the Minister for Health about the number of beds for detox available throughout the North. I was shocked but not surprised to hear we have just 34. That’s a shameful figure, and here in Derry we must fight our corner and get the detox unit that is so obviously needed.
In 2010/2011 the funding for additional detox facilities was just under £3.5 million for the whole of the North. That’s miniscule compared to the massive social cost that is being endured by families and communities in this city. We’ve all seen people hit that downward spiral of abuse of drugs or drink, and increasingly we’re seeing it happen at a younger and younger age. People are entering a trap which will damage them or even kill them.
We hear from the media regularly that we face a ‘lost generation’ – usually referring to the serious issue of youth unemployment. That is valid. However, we are also facing the prospect of lost generations if we do not provide help for those under the grip of addiction. How many lives could have been saved already if we had a dedicated unit for them to turn to when they needed help most? We owe it to their memories to ensure that we provide support for the future – for all our futures.
Many families have been ravaged by the horrors of addiction in Derry and our hinterland. And yet the support afforded to those who so plainly need professional help is overwhelmed. We as a community must stand behind those trying to help. We need both capital and resource funding for a dedicated unit to complement what they’re doing, work that they carry out with care and professionalism on a daily basis on far from glamorous cases.
This city needed a Radiotherapy Unit. We cried out for it, we lobbied, we protested, we all stood shoulder to shoulder - and it has been delivered.
In my opinion, a dedicated multi-bed detox facility is as urgently needed. Lives are at risk, and I mean that not just in the context of people losing their lives – I mean the lives that addictions ruin, the lives of friends, families, communities.
It is more important now than ever to ensure that we integrate our response to addiction amongst all age groups and all areas of the community if Derry is to tackle what is becoming an increasingly prominent problem.
The New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs Phase 2 document outlines how the Executive will seek to tackle the issue of addiction, with partnership being the key word enshrined within it. The framework includes the Drug Arrest Referral Teams within Derry that do fabulous work – as well as large scale aware campaigns undertaken by both statutory and community-based agencies
Our city is moving forward. We all want to see a time when Derry is prosperous and where our citizens, young and old, can get the help and support they need to be able to contribute to our future together.
Stand with those families, those friends, those communities. Stand by our city and demand that we get our dedicated unit.