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Concern in Derry that people have been experimenting with different drugs during the lockdown period

Closure of Foyle Haven has had a 'massive impact' on support services for addicts

Concern in Derry that people have been experimenting with different drugs during the lockdown period

Mayor Brian Tierney pictured with Foyle Haven staff during a visit to the centre this week. The centre has been closed to users since March because of the lockdown.

A homeless charity in Derry has said it has witnessed an alarming change in drug consumption and trends during Covid-19 among the people they have been supporting.

In March, Depaul had to close its day centre service in Derry, more commonly known as the Foyle Haven Day Centre.

The centre has been serving the local community since 2001 and provides supports to those experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.

On average, 35-40 people would have accessed the day centre on a daily basis prior to its closing.

The charity continues to support people through phone calls and video link-ins, home visits where necessary, preparation and distribution meals and collection of medicines.

However, Depaul’s Senior Services Manager for Northern Ireland Deirdre Canavan said they were concerned at the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on people who used their services.

“We have recently witnessed a worrying shift in drug consumption and trends during Covid-19 and the lockdown period,” she said.

“Drugs which were readily available prior to Covid-19 are not as easily accessed now and this has caused people to experiment with drugs they may not have taken before.

“We have also found that with lockdown people’s social groups have narrowed and the lack of social interaction and isolation has had a huge impact on people’s everyday routines.

“This has led to people going to places they would not usually go and to be with people they may not have socialised with on a daily basis prior to Covid-19.

“The closure of our Foyle Haven day centre has had a massive impact in this respect.”

The charity noted a rise in the use of heroin, roxicodone, diazepam and suboxone.

They have also had to deal with a number of suspected overdoses where staff has had to administer Naloxone, a lifesaving antidote which reverses the effects of a drug overdose.

In response the charity have supplied and trained 10 service users with Naloxone training.

It has also provided training and education to a number of family members who may have a relative in active addiction.

Depaul have also trained and retrained 34 staff members in the use of Naloxone during the Covid-19 period.

The charity is urging people who are in active addiction, or concerned families to get in touch as Depaul is the main provider of Naloxone and Naloxone training in the Western Area.

The charity has said it is helping almost 250 people on a daily basis through its community services in Northern Ireland, including over 90 children.

In addition, the charity is supporting 29 families throughout the current Covid-19 crisis in its two family services in Belfast and a further 47 individuals in two separate accommodation based services.

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