Higgins wants empty buildings used as centres

Tue, May 15, 2012, 01:00

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins said yesterday he believes many of the vacant buildings around the country could be used for community support services.

Speaking at the opening of the Finglas Addiction Support Centre, he said: “I see this centre as being a model for other services throughout the country, and certainly when one thinks of the amount of vacant buildings there are now, this is the kind of use that so many of them could be put.”

The centre was set up in 2004. Funding from the Department of Health has allowed the service to offer a wider range of supports to drug users and their families. One former addict and volunteer at the centre, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to the President about his personal journey recovering from addiction, telling him, “I couldn’t do it on my own”.

He showed Mr Higgins the centre’s recovery wall, where former drug users write messages revealing their individual battles with addiction.

His message read, “When I was diagnosed with Hep C and HIV, I did not believe I could ever stop using, as I did not think I could handle the reality of these two conditions after 25 years of drug use.

“I took a chance and began on a day programme which led to a detox and then the Rutland treatment centre. I learned to face my fears, which restored my confidence and helped me to begin to enjoy life. I took help from friends, family and Fast [Finglas Addiction Support Team] and now I am six years in recovery.”

Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall attended the event, along with Dublin North West TDs Dessie Ellis and John Lyons. General manager Barbara Condon said: “It is well-established that for every person caught in addiction, an average of eight people consequently suffer.” Last year, the centre worked with 368 individuals, including substance users, family and community members.

Of the 147 men and women who sought help for cocaine abuse, 67 stopped using the drug completely. The centre also announced Ireland’s first ever recovery coach programme, which will train former addicts to help others struggling with recovery.

The pilot programme is being set up with Dublin City University. DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said: “It’s really recovered addicts that take part in this and they will be the recovery coaches. It’s well-established that they are the best at doing this. It’s exactly the sort of programme that reflects the value a university can bring to its own community.”