Work will get underway shortly on building a dedicated centre to help children in Cork city and county who are battling drug and alcohol addiction.
News of the project was given to members of the Cork City and County Joint Policing Committee (JPC) by David Lane, coordinator of the Southern Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforce.
Currently, adults and children battling addiction are treated together at the HSE's services at Arbour House, in the St Finbarr's Hospital campus.
Mr Lane said having the different age groups together was not ideal as different approaches were required to help adults and juveniles.
He said that for a number of years he and his colleagues had sought a separate, dedicated treatment unit for minors and the HSE had agreed to build one at the former St Mary's Hospital campus in Gurranabraher.
“It will be built on one entire floor of one of the derelict buildings there. We hope that work will begin on the facility in either in March or April of this year and it will be up and running by the winter,” Mr Lane said.
He added that the centre will not be residential and will work closely with outreach centres for juveniles which are dotted throughout the county.
In a year we work on average with around 100 children across the city and county. We want to separate the juveniles from adults because they require different forms of intervention.
He added that seven additional support jobs were being created by the HSE in drug and alcohol services in Cork and Kerry this year.
Mr Lane, who has been involved in drug and alcohol services for the past 20 years, said that trends change, but fortunately recent research showed that abuse of both was decreasing among younger people.
Cllrs Joe Carroll and Kevin Murphy said there appeared to be a rise in the availability of drugs in their respective areas of West and South Cork. Senator Jerry Buttimer maintained the same could be said in Cork City.
Figures provided at the meeting by Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin showed the number of people caught in possession of drugs for supply in Cork City was up from 182 in 2018 to 189 last year.
The number caught just for possession rose from 711 to 846.
The number of cases for both supply and personal use were marginally down in the Cork North and Cork West Garda Divisions for the 2019 period compared to the previous year.
Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan said that under the direction of Garda Commissioner Drew Harris more resources will be directed towards targeting drug suppliers this year.
Cllr Cathal Rasmussen, said he was also concerned about underage drinking.
Mr Lane said there was a bigger problem in this country with drink rather illegal drugs and hopes minimum pricing will be introduced by the government shortly.