Cheap drugs and homelessness driving increase in service users at Newbridge’s ARAS, says councillor

Clientele at the centre have doubled since this time last year

Sarah Peppard

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Sarah Peppard

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sarah.peppard@leinsterleader.ie

Cheap drugs and homelessness driving increase in service users at Newbridge’s ARAS, says councillor

ARAS drugs treatment centre in Newbridge

Cheap drugs and homelessness are driving an increase in service users attending a drugs treatment centre in Newbridge, a local councillor believes.

Independent Cllr Paddy Kennedy, a former member of the Board at Abbey Regional Addiction Services (ARAS) in Newbridge, says the number of clients has doubled since this time last year at the centre.

Cllr Kennedy recently stepped aside from his duties at ARAS, where he was a Board member for five and a half years.

“The large increase in service users this year more so than any other year, I think is down to the actual fact of having a more serious problem with drugs abuse. We’ve always had the alcohol abuse and that kind of stays at the same level, but drug abuse, I believe and this is just my personal opinion, is where drugs have got a lot cheaper on the street”, said Cllr Kennedy.

“The ones where they were paying a €100 last year for, they’re getting them for €20 now. Drugs are more readily available at a cheaper price which causes a serious problem,” he added.

“The homeless situation has added to it big time, I’m chair of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) in the council so I’m dealing with the homeless situations on a regular basis, homelessness is one part that also affects people with addiction — mental health is another.

“If you asked me why we’ve had such a big increase in clientele coming into ARAS, it’s because of the homeless situation, I definitely think it’s because of that myself.” 

ARAS, which was in danger of closing down in 2013, is a community project for people living with a drug or alcohol addiction, and their families.

Project workers liase with people and put in place plans tailormade to suit each service user. Family programmes are also offered.

People can also avail of the drop in services, and laundry facilities. 

Cllr Kennedy said a new Board of Members was put together in 2013 to bring the project forward.

“The first three years were very tough, and the Government brought in cuts to funding. So every year we had to come up with between 5 and 15% in the shortfall in funding. We’re funded by the HSE through the South Western Regional Drugs Task Force, and we would of had to come up with cuts in funding.

“Funding is down less now than it was in 2009/2010. Savage cuts of between 5 and 20% made were between 2009 and 2016.

“And then the last two years we had no reduction in funding, but the previous cuts were never really reinstated so we were always left that we had to find our own devices of raising funds.

“We have made no cuts to any of the services we provide, and this is down totally to the support we get, financially and otherwise, from the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal Council, the Outreach services of the HSE and their team, the KWETB help us with a lot of courses, and Newbridge Silverware and Horse Racing Ireland have been very good, as well as Judge John Coughlan, the Probation services and Courts services, and the National Lottery.” 

Cllr Kennedy said the centre also has a serious problem trying to hold on to staff, due to pay cuts, and recruiting is difficult because any new staff taken on would start off on the very lowest salary scale.

Sinn Féin Cllr Mark Lynch previously told the Municipal District meeting that the serious drugs issue in Newbridge had grown “severe”. He said begging is a huge issue in Newbridge the last few months, and that it is going to get worse. Cllr Lynch recently called on Kildare County Council to seek proper funding for drug rehabilitation services in the Municipal District. He said the council should call on the Minister for Health and HSE to provide the Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force with an increased budget.

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