New alcohol treatment prog 'saves lives'

Pilot prog ran in three areas for one year
  • Deborah Condon

Alcohol-related harm costs the State an estimated €3.7 billion every year and can have a devastating personal impact on drinkers and their loved ones. However a new community-based alcohol treatment programme, which ran in three Dublin areas for just one year, recorded major success, with many clients achieving and maintaining abstinence.

The Community Alcohol Response and Engagement (CARE) pilot programme ran in the three areas of Ballymun, Finglas and the North Dublin Region, which included areas such as Swords, Balbriggan, Lusk and Malahide, between June 2014 and June 2015.

CARE was developed to provide alcohol treatment options in the community by utilising a range of local services that are already available, such as community GPs, HSE addiction services and local pharmacies. These worked with a dedicated team of clinical nurse specialists.

An evaluation report on the CARE project, which has just been published, has revealed just how successful it was. It shows that between June 2014 and June 2015, 142 people were referred to CARE, mainly by community-based GPs, 105 of whom presented for assessment.

Some 52% of these were men and the average age of clients was 45.

An analysis of 40 randomly selected clients showed that 82% either significantly reduced their alcohol intake or becoming abstinent. In fact, 54% became abstinent, and of these, over half maintained their abstinence.

Only 8% of participants made no progress in relation to their alcohol intake.

The report also noted that among those who wanted to improve their relationship with their children, 80% achieved this. While in the area of mental and physical health, most recorded improvements, ranging from eating a healthier diet to re-engaging with mental health services.

Speaking to, Barbara Condon of Finglas Addiction Support Team (FAST), who was on the CARE Steering Committee, explained that the reason why this programme has proven so successful compared to others is because ‘it tackles both the medical side of alcohol problems and the psycho-social side on the same site'.

Until now, alcohol treatment programmes often lacked integration. For example, a person may enter a detox programme to get off alcohol, but after that, they may be left with no psycho-social support, meaning that they more than likely will return to alcohol use.

CARE allows clients to access a range of different medical and psycho-social supports in the same place.

The financial benefits of the programme are also clear to see. The pilot programme cost just over €116, 250 to run in the three areas. While Ms Condon acknowledges that if CARE was to continue, some additional funding would be needed, this is a drop in the ocean when compared to how much alcohol costs the State as a result of things like Emergency Department attendances, alcohol-related work absenteeism, lower productivity, not to mention the personal cost to physical, emotional and mental health.

"CARE is a very cost-effective programme. It is a very small amount of money when you consider the lives saved as a result, the improvement in quality of life for families and the resulting rippling effect this can have in the community," Ms Condon commented.

While the three areas of Ballymun, Finglas and the North Dublin Region are hoping for the pilot programme to be continued, they also believe that CARE has a role to play nationally.

"We believe this is a model of best practice that should be rolled out nationwide," Ms Condon added.


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