Call for introduction of alcohol treatment and support services

Emergency department spends more than €4.5 million on treating patients due to alcohol

A strategy group set up to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm is calling for a range of alcohol treatment and support services to be introduced.

It also wants factors influencing alcohol supply, such as availability and marketing, to be regulated and controlled.

The new Galway City Alcohol Strategy’s objectives come as it was revealed this week the major impact of alcohol on the local health service, especially on University Hospital Galway’s emergency department.

Mr John O’Donnell, a consultant in emergency medicine at the facility, said the estimated cost of treating patients, whose conditions were wholly attributable to alcohol, was more than €4.5 million in Galway in 2011.

“It should be noted that this figure is likely to be much greater as alcohol is a risk associated with many other diseases and injuries,” he said.

Liam O’Loughlin from the Galway Healthy Cities Forum, who took the lead in developing the strategy, said people know alcohol contributes to a range of social and health problems.

He emphasised that actions need to be community wide and not to just focus on heavy drinkers, youths or other specific groups.

“To achieve this, we set about engaging with the people of Galway city and relevant voluntary, community and statutory groups to develop a strategy based on the evidence.

“The starting point is a five year strategy focusing on key areas of; prevention; supply, access and availability; screening, treatment and support services; and research, monitoring and evaluation. The overall goals of the strategy are to strengthen support and action to address alcohol-related harm; ensure factors influencing alcohol supply such as availability and marketing are regulated and controlled; advocate for a range of alcohol treatment and support services; and use evidence and research to inform decisions in preventing and reducing alcohol-related harm.”

Some of the actions that will be undertaken this year in Galway city include raising public awareness of the health and social impacts of alcohol-related harm; organising workshops to develop substance use policies for workplaces and sports clubs; monitoring alcohol marketing practice in public places; reviewing the density of outlets selling alcohol; increasing the enforcement of laws relating to the sale of alcohol to and for under 18s; and communicating information on services available for those affected by alcohol.

Full details of the strategy are available at www.galwayalcoholstrategy.ie

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