“A POSITIVE, good news story that’s never heard enough about,” is how the chair of Edenderry Addressing Substance Abuse (EASA) described the work of the voluntary group which offers practical help to drug addicts and their families. At the launch of three new initiatives for the people of the north Offaly town, Fergus McDonnell said EASA has worked ‘tirelessly’ since it was officially launched in 2007 to provide help for families ‘in chronic need of support’.
One of those initiatives is a hard-hitting video featuring locals whose families have experienced the ravages of heroin abuse.
In it, 24 year old Ger Hurst poignantly speaks of how his own addiction to heroin affected his life and Mandy Cummins vividly describes her experiences as a mother finding out that her son had become addicted to the same drug.
Both were warmly supported by the audience for their bravery in speaking about their personal struggles.
The video was made by young people from Daingean, Rhode and Edenderry and features re-enactments of family situations, conversations with Mandy Cummins and Ger Hurst and interviews with local Garda Niall O’Leary.
Joe Lawlor is the counsellor at the Eden Hope project which was launched last year and offers a drop-in service to addicts and their families at all stages of addiction.
He said there is enormous ‘potential for disaster for a whole population of young people’ where drugs are ‘a problem that is eating at the town’.
However, there is hope at an individual, family and community level so long as people take action.
The support service at 8 Mary Street is open two afternoons a week and is already working to capacity and looking at opening more regularly.
Gerry Collins highlighted how there is much that young people can do in their free time to divert them from drugs. He gave the example of a soccer tournament which involved 45 young people when it was first run three years ago and last year had 240 participants.
“It’s exhilarating to see what it did for young people,” he said.
A booklet providing valuable information on services available was also launched, as well as a three minute film by EASA Youth, a group of transition year students, entitled Know How to Say No.
EASA operates in conjunction with a number of stakeholders, including the Probation Service, the Schools Completion Programme, the VEC, Gardaí and Acorn as well as Offaly Local Development Company.