In these difficult times, Merchants Quay Ireland, just like everyone else has suffered sharp funding cutbacks. Over the last few years we took a range of difficult steps to ensure that we could protect, grow and develop our frontline services to meet the increased need. We significantly pared back our costs in relation to areas like administration, research, training and other back office functions while at the same time agreeing new working arrangements with staff to ensure that we could develop new much needed initiatives for our service users.
The ground work undertaken in the last few years has allowed us to put in place a range of new initiatives to the benefit of our clients. These include:
- The opening of the newly refurbished Riverbank Open Access Centre which brings all our crisis services under on roof. This has provided space to meet the increasing demand for our services.
- Developed extended hours day services for homeless persons in partnership with Focus Ireland to ensure that for the first time persons sleeping rough have somewhere to go for a meal and for shelter in the evenings.
- In partnership with Coolmine Therapeutic Communities and Respond! housing we have developed aftercare accommodation and vocational training initiatives for persons completing residential drug treatment.
- At St Francis Farm we have opened our new Detox facility with 10 beds. We have also extended our Rehab facility to 14 beds.
- We have increased the range of services we are offering across the four Midland counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Longford and Laois. We now have premises in both Athlone and Portlaoise and have in place a range of services including Family Support, Community Harm Reduction, Rehabilitation and Aftercare Services and new Traveller specific drugs initiative.
- We are continuing to develop and deliver our services in the prisons. We deliver the National Addiction Counselling Service in 13 prisons across the country.
Merchants Quay Ireland is now delivering services in eleven counties across Ireland which simply reflects the fact that the drugs crisis is a national crisis. Addressing the drugs crisis is fundamentally about reducing human misery or it is about nothing. It should not be reduced to economics. Nonetheless in this era where policy is focused almost exclusively on reducing public expenditure it is important to again draw notice to the fact that according to the British Home Office every £1 spent on drug treatment saves £3 in criminal justice costs alone. When Health savings are included the saving is £9.50. Investing in harm reduction service directly reduces health care expenditure. Investment in drug substitution treatment has been shown to reduce other healthcare costs and to reduce crime and investment in drug free treatment and aftercare can reduce expenditure on healthcare, criminal justice and social welfare. Most of all investing in all of these areas reduces the misery associated with drug use for everybody involved.