‘Family support needed’ as drug deaths top 700

A drug-support group has called for family co-ordinators to be appointed as new figures reveal more than 700 drug-related deaths in 2016.

The National Family Support Network also urged the State to take “meaningful action” on drug-related intimidation, which it said was a horror haunting families and communities.

The network has over 70 affiliated local groups in Ireland. It is holding its 20th Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope in Dublin tonight.

“Over 700 people died from a drug-related death in 2016, leaving 700 broken-hearted families left to grieve,” said network chief executive Sadie Grace.

The figure, gathered by the National Drug Related Deaths Index, continues a trend of relatively high numbers of deaths over the last four years, with 695 fatalities in 2015, 719 in 2014, and 703 in 2013.

Those yearly tolls mark a considerable increase on the previous eight years, when the number rose steadily from 431 in 2014 to 660 in 2012.

Ireland’s drug mortality rate has been consistently third or fourth highest in Europe, partly because our data is considered robust.

The service, being held at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Sean McDermott St, in the north-east inner city at 7.30pm is due to be attended by drugs strategy minister Catherine Byrne, Taoiseach aide-de-camp commandant Caroline Burke and Catholic archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Also expected to attend are Garda assistant commissioners Pat Leahy, in charge of the Dublin region, and John O’Driscoll, in charge of Special Crime Operations, as well as local divisional officer, chief superintendent Sean Ward.

“We are here to offer families hope. We are here to tell the government that these families deserve services in their own right and that their loved ones need person-centred, accessible and early intervention,” Ms Grace said.

In the short term, we need to ensure that family support is accessible in every corner of Ireland, family support co-ordinators need to be based in taskforce areas with the help of the HSE.

She said families also needed a break and that respite was a “crucial lifeline” for them. Ms Grace said “meaningful action” needed to be taken on drug-related intimidation, which was “a horror which we know haunts families all over Ireland”.

Last September, the network set up the country’s first specialist bereavement service for families.

Ms Grace said it only covered the north inner city and was needed nationwide.

Praising the network, Ms Byrne said it was crucial that the country achieve better outcomes for addiction, to highlight drug-related deaths and “work to reduce these deaths”.

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