Drug treatment centre reports huge rise in use of services

Merchant’s Quay Ireland notes 66% surge in demand for its mental health support

Merchant’s Quay Ireland drug treatment centre in  Dublin. Image: Google Streetview

Merchant’s Quay Ireland drug treatment centre in Dublin. Image: Google Streetview


The largest voluntary drug treatment service in the State experienced “unprecedented” demand across its services last year, as “poverty, hunger, addiction, overdose and homelessness” continue for its increasing number of clients.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland, in its 2015 annual report published this morning, says it saw a 66 per cent increase in demand for its mental health services, a 15 per cent rise in need for its drop-in service and a 19 per cent increase in demand for its nursing service, since 2014. Since 2011, there has been a 35 per cent rise in demand for its needle-exchange service.

Some 7,500 people accessed its homelessness services last year, while 68,239 meals were served by its day service in 2015 – an 8 per cent increase on 2014. In all, MQI served 98, 865 meals to poor and homeless people in 2015.

“Given the fact that our clients are predominantly single, their prospect of being housed is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future,” says Mick Price, chairman of the charity’s board, in the report.

The charity opened its night cafe, on Dublin’s south quays, on January 1st last year, operating seven nights a week, 11pm-8am. It describes itself as a “plan B” for homeless people who cannot get, or do not want, an emergency bed. This year it increased its capacity from 50 people a night to 70 to meet demand and 1,971 individuals used the cafe in 2015.

People in crisis

The charity’s nursing post was vacant for four months of 2015. However, when it was filled there was an average of 179 nursing interventions a month, an increase of 19 per cent on the previous year.

“The GP service continues to be in high demand with 2,117 consultations, or 176 a month – an increase of 7 per cent compared to 2014.”

Last year, 279 people needed the mental health nursing service, a 66 per cent increase on 2014. The charity “sadly” saw young people “growing up in our day services” “A life revolving around homelessness and drug services is not what we want for our clients.” Its dedicated support worker helped 164 people aged 18 to 25.

“As mentioned in previous years, the statistics concerning fatalities among drug users remains a national disgrace,” writes Mr Price. “ We welcome the recognition of the life-saving value of safe injecting facilities and encourage our politicians to expedite legislation to make them a reality.”

Chief executive Tony Geoghegan said despite the pressures there was a “real chance for positive change”.

The Government is consulting on developing a new national drug strategy to run from next year. “We hope the Government will hold to its commitments to prioritise homelessness and drugs and provide leadership and resources needed,” said Mr Geoghegan.