Local counselling project to close doors if it cannot secure State funding


A local drug project looks set to close its doors if it cannot secure State funding by the end of the year.

Willow Community Counselling Services, based in Athy, Co Kildare, said the State has funded just one-in-eight of its counselling hours in the last two months, with the rest given voluntarily.

Separately, figures show State funding for all local and regional drugs and alcohol task forces fell by 11% in 10 years, from €30.9m in 2010 to €27.6m in 2019.

“We simply want to provide a service for people in Athy and the surrounding area who are in desperate need of help and support,” said Willow director Sharon Malloy.

Ms Malloy, who has worked in Athy as an addiction counsellor since 2015, said the project, which was set up at the start of 2018, has received €8,590 in funding from the South West Regional Drugs Task Force.

She said they had meetings with the task force, which, she said, had advised the project that they were unable to provide any additional funding.

She said they had written to drugs strategy minister Catherine Byrne, but were referred back to the HSE and the regional task force.

Ms Malloy said:

I have drawn my own ‘line in the sand’ and if adequate funding is not on the horizon by the end of the year I will have no alternative but to close the service.

“I will, of course, do this with a heavy heart, however, I can no longer continue working without such funding in place.”

Ms Malloy said that while Athy had a population of around 10,000, it had “twice as many people” in rehabilitation treatment compared to other towns in the county.

She said a report on Athy compiled by RAPID – a government programme to tackle social disadvantage – identified the town as having a “severe ongoing substance use problem with areas of extreme disadvantage and very disadvantaged”.

The town has also had two fatal shootings and a fatal stabbing in recent years. She said 50% of their clients were “in active addiction”, some 35% were drug-free, while a further 15% were family members of users.

Ms Malloy said it received €8,590 in funding from the task force in December 2018.

It has also got €5,000 in RAPID funding, €7,000 from Kildare County Council as well as €2,200 from the council to cover rent, €1,000 from Naas Court and €500 from the Athy Court Box.

Ms Malloy said they have worked with 55 clients in 2019 and have ongoing funding for 11 people.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the HSE Community Healthcare Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow said it had engaged with Willow services and that funding was provided to them in 2018.

“In relation to funding for 2020, a meeting has been arranged with Willow Community Counselling Services, the Health Service Executive and the SWRDATF in early December to discuss services needs,” it said.

The Department of Health said Minister Byrne encouraged the service to engage with the HSE.

Figures supplied to Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin show that total task force funding fell from €30.9m in 2010 to €27.6m in 2019.

Of this, local drug task funding dropped from €20.9m to €18.9m, while regional task force funding went from €10m to €8.7m. When compared to 2008, local task force funding fell from €23.9m, down 21%.

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