A Community Action Plan on Drugs and Alcohol for County Westmeath was officially launched by Catherine Byrne, TD Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy in the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone on Friday 5th May 2017.
In late 2015 the Midland Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force (MRDATF) secured funding from Pobal through the Dormant Accounts Fund to facilitate a community mobilisation process that promoted prevention and awareness initiatives associated with alcohol and drug misuse in County Westmeath.
In 2016 the MRDATF invited expressions of Interest from current MRDATF funded Local Drug and Alcohol Forums/Networks to coordinate in partnership with the MRDATF, the development of a County Stakeholder Action Group (CSAG) for a selected county in the midland region. This group would then take the lead on, and inform the development of a Local Substance Misuse Action Plan for the
County. Athlone Drug Awareness Group was selected by the MRDATF to support the roll out of this initiative on a pilot basis in County Westmeath.
The initiative has seen the development a Community based Drug and Alcohol Action Plan and the establishment of a County Stakeholder Action Group for County Westmeath. Membership of the CSAG is comprised of representation from the Community, Voluntary and Statutory sectors and Public representatives from County Westmeath. Members of the CSAG were supported through the action planning process by participating in a Substance Misuse Awareness & Community Action Planning Training Programme which was delivered by Quality Matters in late 2016.
Speaking at the launch Catherine Byrne, TD Minister of State for Communities and the
National Drugs Strategy stated, “I would like to congratulate the Midlands Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force and the Westmeath County Stakeholder Action Group on the development of the Drug & Alcohol Action Plan. It will provide a valuable resource for Westmeath to support and strengthen a community based response to drug and alcohol misuse. I look forward to seeing the work of Athlone Drugs Awareness Group and all stakeholders as they implement the Action Plan over the coming years”.
Part of this initiative also seen the development of a toolkit which was also developed by Quality Matter. This toolkit was used as part of the training programme and the MRDATF envisage that this toolkit ‘Toolkit for developing local community action plans for Drug & Alcohol Task Force’, will greatly assist the MRDATF to roll out this initiative in the other counties of the midland region to include Longford, Laois and Offaly.
Speaking at the launch Ms Antoinette Kinsella, Co-ordinator MRDATF stated,
"I am delighted to be here today at the launch of this Community based Action Plan. The Task Force has worked in partnership with Athlone Drugs Awareness Group and all members of the County Stakeholder Action Group to develop this Plan and I believe it will provide a valuable resource for the county and assist the MRDATF, Athlone Drug Awareness Group and members of the CSAG to support, strengthen and respond to drug and alcohol related issues at a community level.
It is important to note that this plan has been developed using a community based approach and the vision for the County Stakeholder Action Group who will drive the delivery of all key actions over the next three years is to work to ensure our community is educated and informed to effectively respond to drug and alcohol related issues. It seeks to build a better future where those in our community who need help will access it without stigma or shame. It will seek to build a future where those who need support will feel supported and reassured; and where the wider community will feel informed, connected and enthusiastic about creating a safer, healthier community for all. I look forward to continue to work in partnership with all members of the CSAG to deliver on all actions detailed in the Plan.
On behalf of the Task Force, I would like to warmly thank Athlone Drug Awareness Group and all participants of the CSAG for their involvement, commitment and participation in this initiative. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Pobal for allocating the funding to support the roll out of this piece of work. Thanks also to the HSE and Drugs Policy Unit, Department of Health for their support.
Initiatives of this nature are very beneficial as they help raise awareness of the issues surrounding drug and alcohol misuse, help strengthen and support a community based focus to the problem and most importantly mobilise partnership responses at local and regional level”.
Also speaking at the launch Cllr. Frankie Keena, Chairperson of Athlone Drug Awareness Group and member of the CSAG said, “ I would like to thank Minister Catherine Byrne for agreeing to launch this Plan. It is a great opportunity for the Minister to see first hand what is happening on the ground in the Midlands through the valuable work of the Midland Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforce. Athlone Drug Awareness Group was delighted to have been chosen to work in conjunction with the MRDATF and members of the CSAG to facilitate the development of the Action Plan. In particular, I would like to thank Antoinette Kinsella, Co-ordinator MRDATF for her endless support, advice and commitment to this very important initiative. The expertise, support and direction from Ms Aoife Dermody, Quality Matters through the training programme delivered was really appreciated and valued.
As this is a pilot project it was necessary to develop a comprehensive Community Action Plan that is achievable and realistic. Thanks to the participation of over 25 groups representing many sectors of the county this was made possible. Their initial involvement consisted of them participating in three days training, considering submissions after public consultation and developing and agreeing the content to be included in the Action Plan. It was really fantastic to see all sectors committing to give their time for the next three years to implement the actions outlined in the plan through joining the Westmeath County Stakeholders Action Group. The importance of community involvement and support is key to a successful outcome and we are very fortunate here in Westmeath to have such positive buy in. I also welcome the fact that this plan mainly focuses on the Prevention pillar of the National Drugs Strategy and I hope that this pilot initiative will be showcased country wide”.
Source: Midlands Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force, 18/05/17