‘Lessons must be learned’ from teen’s drug death

A teen who died of a drug overdose while in HSE aftercare was unable to access ‘appropriate’ accommodation upon his release from prison, an inquest heard.

Danny Talbot, 19, of no fixed abode, died of respiratory failure due to a toxic combination of methadone and benzodiazepines. He was found dead at a flat on Berkeley St, Dublin 7, on August 4, 2009, where he had been staying temporarily with a man he met on the street.

Dublin coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure following lengthy inquest proceedings into his death.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Talbot’s aunt, Donna Lambe said the verdict brought closure to the family. “We just want lessons to be learned from his case,” she said.

The coroner said he will write to the Irish Prison Service after it emerged that Focus Ireland, providing aftercare for Mr Talbot on behalf of the HSE, was unaware he was in Cloverhill prison. Dublin Coroner’s Court heard Mr Talbot’s engagement with services was ‘voluntary’ and ‘sporadic’.

Karen Doyle, assistant project leader at Focus Ireland’s North Dublin Aftercare at the time of Mr Talbot’s death, said a social worker who visited him in prison had left her job and was not replaced before Mr Talbot was released. Upon his release, Mr Talbot contacted the Caretakers Hostel, Back Lane, Dublin 8, seeking accommodation.

“At Caretakers, they said he was in good form, he looked well and was presenting drug-free,” Ms Doyle said. The hostel was not ideal, but was “not the worst option”, Ms Doyle added.

Both she and Caretakers’ staff had concerns that the accommodation was inappropriate, because the hostel targets active drug users and Mr Talbot had emerged from prison drugs-free.

Brian Barrington BL, representing Mr Talbot’s aunt, Sandra Lambe, said a review of accommodation options for young people in receipt of state aftercare leaving prison drug-free was needed to ensure “they have the best chance possible to maintain a drug-free status”.

“The sad thing in this case is that we were very nearly there, by a number of days,” Mr Barrington said.

Last year, Tusla apologised and acknowledged “considerable shortcomings” in Mr Talbot’s care following a report by the National Review Panel. Acknowledging the report, the coroner said he will contact the Irish Prison Service with regard to the post-release co-ordinaton of young persons in state aftercare.

“I will also write to the Child and Family Agency asking for a review of the provision for young persons such as Danny leaving prison,” Dr Farrell said.

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