FAMILIES have this week been placed at the centre of the crack cocaine crisis, as those working on the ground highlight the importance of family support – and the help available in the community for parents, grandparents and siblings.
Eileen Whelan, a family support worker with WASP (Whitechurch Addiction Support Programme) for the past five years, believes that while supports for the person with a cocaine addiction is vital, so too are supports for the family.
WASP provides supports to families living with all types of addiction.
Around 90 per cent of the families they currently support are directly impacted on by crack cocaine use.
Despite no dedicated funding, WASP has been working alongside CARP in Killinarden to deliver supports to Tallaght families impacted on by crack cocaine use since 2017.
“Crack cocaine seems to be destroying family homes, destroying family relations,” Eileen told The Echo.
“It’s quite a difficult one… and it’s everywhere.”
Eileen facilitates a weekly family support group, which is mainly attended by the mothers of young people with an addiction.
“The family support group is very informal, people come have a cup of tea and see that they are not alone…there are other people struggling with addiction in the family.
“I don’t think families realise support is out there for them.
“Mothers, fathers, siblings can go and get family support, you’re entitled to support in your own right.”
Working with mothers, fathers, children and grandparents, Eileen also engages in outreach work, court accompaniment and family mediation.
“Communication breaks down so much when there is addiction in the family,” Eileen said.
“When there is addiction in the family, people don’t realise the ripple effect on a whole family.
“For example, if there’s children in a house, they can be forgotten about…the addiction becomes the main issue.
“The focus is on trying to fix the person with an addiction, and we see this across the board.
“To help a person with an addiction, families need to understand addiction.
“You can’t just go and fix a person; they need to want to be helped.
“We help families to get an understanding of addiction…it’s about accepting the situation, accept this person has an addiction and then look at how best they can cope with it.
“We give families coping tools… and holistic supports.”
WASP, through its Tallaght project in CARP, is currently working with 30 families – with 11 families on a waiting list.
Cathy Murray, the manager of WASP, told The Echo: “We do not want anybody on a waiting list, but we have nowhere to refer them.
“We’ll never turn anyone anyway… but we can’t take them in [for full supports] if we don’t get the funding.
“We’ve seen the results of how these supports can help a family get back together.
“Families care about their young people, communities care and they get behind each other.
“Don’t be frightened [to ask for help].
“There is a lot of peer support, families support each other.”
Debbie McDonal works in CARP, specifically supporting individuals with a crack cocaine addiction.
“There is a lot of work going on in the background, lots of community-based organisations are working together,” Debbie said.
“There is definitely more inter-agency work going on and a lot more understanding around addiction issues.”
While Debbie specifically works with people in addiction, alongside facilitating a drop-in group for women using crack cocaine, she believes that family support is an integral part of a person’s recovery.
“We’re giving clients a care plan, but no family supports?,” Debbie, who also advocates for her clients, said.
“I’m working with women for over three years now, and not one of those women wants to be on crack cocaine.
“When they do get the support system, they begin to build better relations with their families and their children.
“I have such empathy for these women, and when the support is there, they do take it up.
“Families are in dire straits, and they really do need support.
“However, there is hope, there always is hope.”
Families from right across Tallaght are referred to WASP for the family support services delivered in CARP, with a funding proposal to sustain and extend the project currently with Tusla and the Minister for the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD.
Projects are hopeful that they will receive permanent, dedicated, funding for crack cocaine supports this August.
Grace Hill, co-ordinator of the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force (TDATF) said: “The task force believes this vital work is extremely valuable for the families impacted on by crack cocaine.
“We’re actively looking at ways to sustain [these supports] on a permanent basis, as long as required.
“You can’t look at treatment for crack cocaine without [including] the families suffering.”
A family shares their drug addiction story and how engaging with WASP and CARP helped them… HERE