Guidance for Drug and Alcohol Support Services
The Department of Health is committed to the safe resumption of drug and alcohol services, including community-based services, residential programmes and recovery support groups.
The Department has developed this guidance for drug and alcohol support groups and treatment programmes in recognition of their important role in helping individuals to build recovery capital and to avoid relapse into harmful patterns of substance use.
The guidance applies at all levels of the national framework for living with Covid-19. Public health advice and restrictions at level 5 require individuals to stay at home, except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, or to take exercise within 5km of home.
This guidance applies to the following drug and alcohol services:
- support and recovery groups for people and families who live with drug and alcohol addiction (including gambling addiction), eg self-help/fellowship groups, peer support, family/parent support
- community projects providing services and supports for people who use drugs, eg drug rehabilitation CE programmes, harm reduction/advocacy training
- treatment programmes (non-residential) for people with drug and alcohol addiction, eg counselling, stabilisation, therapeutic communities, aftercare
General points to note
Protecting public health is a shared responsibility of convenors, leaders and participants in support groups and programmes.
Support groups and treatment programmes are high risk settings when the incidence of Covid-19 is widespread in the community.
It is recommended to hold meetings and deliver programmes online or outdoors where this is possible, without diluting the benefits for participants.
People living with drug and alcohol addiction and who experience poor physical health and weakened immune systems are at higher risk from Covid-19. They should avoid face-to-face group/programmes meetings and instead attend meetings that are conducted online.
If hosting a face-to-face group/programme meeting, organisers are advised to undertake a risk assessment to ensure the health, welfare and safety of participants. See here for sample risk assessment prompt sheet. Employees and volunteers who convene groups and programmes should follow the Return to Work Safely Protocol, and have access to training and personal protective equipment.
For more information, download the Department of Health Guidance document here
Download poster for services here
Additional advice for people affected by drug and alcohol during Covid-19
Advice on harm reduction is available for people who use drugs or with alcohol-related problems.
Drug and alcohol services continue to operate during Covid-19, albeit with some restrictions. Relevant information and supports can be found on Drugs.ie.
The HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline 1800 459 459 can be contacted Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 5:30pm; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidance documents and resources for addiction services are also available from the HSE, including guidance for the safe operation of Tier 4 residential drug and alcohol services