THERE were 61 people in Laois/Offaly awaiting methadone treatment for heroin addiction at the end of March, according to figures provided this week to the ‘Offaly Express’ by the HSE.
Following the recent opening of a new treatment centre in Tullamore, it is envisaged that the waiting list will be reduced dramatically in the coming months as more clients commence the Methadone Maintenance Programme. Maintenance clinics will also be starting in the near future.
Arlene Crean, communications officer with the HSE said, “It should be noted that numbers presenting for treatment and placed on the waiting list fluctuate each month. Waiting lists are not an indication of need as there are instances where need based priority cases can access treatment quicker.”
Ms Crean explained that among the factors which impact upon the delivery of treatment is the ability of services users to fulfil the criteria for methadone treatment upon assessment. She also pointed out that people other than those in receipt of methadone also avail of addiction services throughout all HSE areas - ie for alcohol misuse, drug free service users and other forms of addiction.
“Services currently available are operating at an optimal level and any planned expansion of services is dependant on the availability of locally based level I/II GPs and attendant funding,” Ms Crean explained.
The importance of GPs in the treatment of heroin addiction was highlighted at a recent Joint Policing Meeting in Portlaoise. Ms Lynn Farrell of the Midland Regional Drugs Task Force told the meeting that the first ports of call for parents worried that their children are using drugs are the local GP and the schools.
“For people on methadone they need to see their local GP to get moved off the waiting list for treatment,” Ms Farrell explained, adding that the group’s community GP/pharmacy liaison nurse works with the GPs in the area and provides support. At that meeting, councillors expressed their disappointment that figures weren’t available on the number of people currently awaiting treatment on methadone programmes. Ms Farrell explained that such figures were held by the HSE and a commitment was given to have the figures available for the next Joint Policing meeting on June 20.