Massage offered as pre-methadone consolation to Westmeath addicts

Heroin addicts in Westmeath can now look forward to massages and, ironically, acupuncture as part of a series of alternative therapies now available within the county.

This was revealed by Lynn Farrell from the Midland Regional Drugs Task Force (MRDTF ) in its annual presentation to the Mullingar Joint Policing Committee this week.

This surprising fact came to light as Ms Farrell was outlining the breadth of services now available in Westmeath.

She explained that these alternative therapies, as well as aromatherapy, were available as alleviation assistance to former heroin users who were on a methadone waiting list within the county.

For confidentiality reasons Ms Farrell could not say how many people in the county were on such a list, or how many were availing of these new services, but it is estimated to be very small.

Recently it was revealed by the HSE that, up to the end of May, there were 488 people in the county availing of alcohol and drug treatment services in Westmeath.

Ms Farrell went on to explain how the MRDTF offers its services across the four counties of Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, and Longford, specifically in the areas of supply reduction, education and prevention, research, and rehabilitation.

Its two main centres are the Open Door Project in Athlone, and the Ana Liffey Centre in Mullingar where addicts can avail of one-to-one counselling, GP referrals, as well as laundry and shower facilities.

She told how there was a youth health officer based in Mullingar to support users, and to provide access to appropriate services.

The MRDTF also provides a substance abuse education co-ordinator to visit schools, community, and voluntary groups.

The task force has also done a research paper called ‘Close to Home - a Study on the Misuse of Drugs in the Athlone and Mullingar areas’, and this has led to the formation of a 14-week ‘Strengthening Families’ programme, which includes travel and food costs for participants.

Chair of the committee, and one of the county council’s two representatives on the task force, Cllr Frank McDermott told the meeting he found its work: “totally eye-opening”.

“It’s amazing what they do with such a small team of people,” he said.

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