Centre giving people a real second chance

ON February 9, 1989, Tabor Lodge opened its doors to addicted people and their families.

Ballindeasig House was owned by the Sisters of Mercy and they felt they could play a role in alleviating the hardship and poverty caused to families in Cork by the addiction of a parent. Sister Margaret Kiely enrolled in Hazelden Addiction Counsellor Training Programme in Minnesota USA to learn a treatment method that was enjoying good outcomes with alcoholic people.

The treatment programme at Tabor Lodge had humble beginnings. People don’t come beating down the doors of an addiction treatment centre to gain admission. A stigma was attached to being alcoholic and a combination of defiance and shame hindered people asking for help. Gradually, confidence in Tabor Lodge grew. Admissions increased slowly. VHI became interested in good results and included Tabor Lodge among its approved addiction treatment providers. Much hard work was invested in convincing key people in the Southern Health Board that it should fund medical card holders who could not afford treatment costs.

The funding came slowly. The voluntary board of directors spent a lot of time on fundraising activities as well as lobbying local and national politicians.

In 1995, an extension to the building was opened, which facilitated the delivery of the treatment programme which, in turn, allowed Ballindeasig House provide accommodation for 18 residents.

The profile of the typical resident at this time was the middle-aged male alcoholic, who was married with children. Almost 200 people per year were gaining admission. Each engaged in a residential treatment episode of 28-day duration. Family members were invited to attend a programme each Wednesday afternoon. The resident and spouse were then discharged into an aftercare programme for 52 weeks. Having become equipped with the ‘tools of recovery’ of the 12 Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, the aftercare programme encouraged each participant to get proficient in the use of the tools.

As the years went by each resident learned to live constructively with their addiction, sometimes through trial and error.

As illicit drug use became more common in Cork, younger people began to present for help. Sister Margaret realised that more intensive care was needed for the younger addict. In 1999 she opened Renewal, a women’s halfway house in Shanakiel, Cork, and in 2002 Fellowship House, a men’s halfway house in Togher, Cork. This provided an additional three months’ secure care for the young adult.

The young men and women had a real opportunity to put behind them the mistakes, failures and false start associated with active addiction and gave them a real second chance.

Increased funding targeted at addiction services in the years of the Celtic Tiger allowed Tabor Lodge develop its services to families.

Now, thanks to funding from Cork Local Drugs Task Force, a dedicated Family Addictions Counsellor is employed. Through Dormant Account Funding a second Family Addictions Counsellor has been employed to work in the Southern Regional Drugs Task Force area. Aftercare services have also developed to include additional support for those who relapse and a more focused programme of care to cater for the needs of women in early recovery.

In the last three years much work has been done by staff to achieve an ‘accreditation’, a systematic demonstration that treatment services are delivered to a high standard.

In July of this year the board of directors decided to amalgamate Tabor Lodge with Renewal and Fellowship House and so Tabor Lodge Addiction and Housing Services Limited was born. It is fitting that Tabor Lodge’s ‘coming of age’ should coincide with the coming together of the three agencies.

At a time when our National Drugs Strategy intends to provide a national treatment service along a continuum of care to alcohol and drug misusers and their families, Tabor Lodge Addiction and Housing Services Limited is strongly positioned to play its part in delivery of this objective in Cork.

* Mick Devine is administrator of Tabor Lodge Addiction and Housing Services Ltd. Tabor Lodge celebrates its 21st anniversary this year.

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