Teenage addict died while on waiting list for treatment

A teenage woman on a waiting list for treatment for addiction died before a place became available. And it was a tragedy that was becoming all too commonplace, a conference heard yesterday.

Eileen Crosbie, a treatment manager at Renewal House — an extended treatment centre for addicts — said an 18-year-old girl who was two months on the waiting list died before she could be admitted.

“I rang her to tell her we had a place and her father answered. He said: ‘Eileen, we’ve just come from her graveside’,” she said.

She currently had up to 16 people on a waiting list, and it was likely to be next spring before they could get a place on the three-month Renewal programme which is the only extended treatment programme for women in the country.

Finbarr Cassidy, treatment manager at Fellowship House, the men’s equivalent of Renewal, said he also had 16 people on a waiting list.

Mr Cassidy said they were “dealing with life and death every day” and a huge amount of young men coming in had self-harmed.

In fact, the increasingly youthful profile of men seeking treatment at Fellowship House was another cause for concern. While it was welcome news they were seeking help early, the reality was that they were often not ready to give up their lifestyle, Mr Cassidy said.

“Our clients are getting younger. Seven out of 10 we are currently treating are aged 18, 19 and 20.” You are asking them to do a 180° turnaround, to stay away from friends, from the places they’ve hung out in. They still think there’s plenty of fun and games out there. “But everytime they snort something up their nose it could kill them. They don’t know the quality of the cocaine, if it contains ground down fertiliser, baby powder, rat poison,” Mr Cassidy said. He said given their youthfulness, it may be the case that they “haven’t suffered enough of the consequences”. “You tend to see the older men coming up the avenue with more surrender, more desire to change. By then, they may have lost their home, their job, they could be the subject of a barring order.”

Fellowship House is due to expand its services in the New Year to provide an additional 31 beds, which will include 15 step down beds. Mr Cassidy said it has taken them eight years to get the €3.7m project over the line and that he “felt like he should be in Fossett’s Circus, there were so many hoops to jump through”.

The planners have insisted that the new buildings provide accommodation for five wheelchair users, three on the ground floor, and two upstairs. Mr Cassidy said it made no sense to accommodate wheelchair users upstairs.

because, in the event of fire, they couldn’t use the lift. He said they would have been happy to provide the five units at ground level. He confirmed no wheelchair user had ever requested treatment at either Tabor Lodge or Fellowship House.


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