Outgoing Merchants Quay Ireland CEO: ‘Ireland faces drugs, homeless crisis’

Tony Geoghegan

Ireland is in the midst of a “deepening social crisis” in terms of housing, homelessness, and addiction, according to Merchants Quay Ireland.

The country’s homelessness and drugs charity recorded a jump in mental health interventions and an even bigger rise in medical consultations with their GP service.

The 2017 Annual Review shows more than 10,000 people accessed its services last year, ranging from hot meals and emergency shelter to drug treatment and rehabilitation.

The publication of the report marks the retirement of Tony Geoghegan as CEO after nearly 30 years in the charity, set up by himself and Franciscan Sean Cassin.

The review, to be published this morning, shows:

  • 13,301 ‘supportive interventions’ were provided, helping people to access healthcare, accommodation, drug treatment, training, and welfare supports
  • A significant rise in the numbers accessing healthcare services, with the total number almost doubling in two years
  • 419 people were supported by their mental health team, a 33% rise on 2016
  • 6,102 appointments (up 55%) were made with their GP service, helping people with a variety of acute and chronic illnesses
  • Almost 2,000 people used the emergency shelter in their night cafe
  • 170 people went through MQI’s detox and rehabilitation services

Speaking as she takes over as CEO, Paula Byrne, the current head of day services, said: “Ireland is in the midst of a deepening social crisis, in housing, in homelessness, and in addiction.

Last year, we had over 10,000 people in need come through our doors. The number of people using our healthcare services has doubled in two years. It’s clear that there is serious and chronic need on our streets.

Ms Byrne said Merchants Quay had expanded services throughout Ireland.

“Times are changing at Merchants Quay Ireland but our mission will remain the same: to care for people in addiction and homelessness with understanding, compassion and dignity,” she said.

Mr Geoghegan said it had been a “real privilege” to work in the charity and said: “Ireland is facing significant challenges, but I know from decades at MQI that people can recover. They can come out of addiction and out of homelessness.

“Society’s role is not to find fault or to judge, but to help people who find themselves in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

The report shows that the charity’s Riverbank Centre provided 107,504 meals to people who are homeless.

Some 172 people aged between 18 and 25 were supported by MQI’s Young Person Support Worker to move on from a crisis situation.

There were 1,000 nursing interventions, 629 people availed of the dental service and 148 people attended the chiropodist.

More than 2,500 attended the health promotion unit regarding their drug use.

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