PREVENTING Addiction Larne (PAL) has opened the borough’s first centre dedicated to helping people affected by substance misuse, addiction, suicide and self-harm.
Based in ground-floor accommodation at the Moyle Medical Building on Old Glenarm Road, PAL provides support, guidance and counselling to addicts as well as to families and carers of people who abuse one or more of alcohol, prescription drugs, legal highs or hard drugs.
The group’s objective is to establish Larne’s own version of the Ballymena Hope Centre, which pioneered the coordination of all services and support relating to substance abuse and making them readily available and accessible to local people who need them.
PAL recently made a presentation of its vision to Larne Borough Council, highlighting the need for such a facility in Larne. However, as councillors heard, PAL has secured funding for its services for only six months and the registered charity is appealing to the local community for continuing support to keep the centre going, while organising a series of fund-raising ventures.
PAL was formed after the death of a local youth who had used the legal high methedrone, creating shockwaves in the community. A group of concerned mothers got together to try and find out as much information as they could about so-called legal highs and educate people about the realities of drug use.
Some 300 people turned up at their first public meeting, prompting them to become a constituted group and provide support services for those in need. One of their first projects was to produce a professional DVD entitled What If? which is aimed at encouraging young people to talk about issues that really matter to them including alcohol, drugs, self-harm, peer pressure, sexual health and relationships.
With three counsellors, a family support worker and a relaxation therapist, PAL is now in a position to provide services locally. On Thursday evenings, a counsellor from Lifeline (the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people who are experiencing distress or despair) offers face-to-face counselling, by appointment.
PAL’s own addiction counsellor begins weekly Wednesday evening sessions next week (November 21).
A drop-in facility is already open to all between 9am and 12.30pm each Thursday and will be open on Wednesdays between 6.30-9.30pm from next week.
PAL can be contacted on 028 28267976 – a temporary number.
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Alternatively, the group can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or through a new website www.pallarne.com
Councillors who heard the PAL presentation were shocked by some of the statistics quoted: that nearly 6,000 people in Northern Ireland were treated for drug and/or alcohol abuse in one year - 53 per cent of them alcohol misuse and seven per cent of them under 18 years of age.
While only five per cent of children had taken drugs in 1987, more than a quarter had in 2011-12; a quarter of young boys thought regular cannabis use was safe; and between two-thirds and three-quarters of 15 to 16-year-olds had been drunk.
Councillors were also told that around 40,000 children in Northern Ireland live with parents who abuse alcohol.
The PAL deputation, comprising Mary Todd, Beverly White, Emma Graham and David Holden left the elected representatives with their vision for the future: “We would like to establish a locally-based central facility. PAL already work in partnership with other community organisations and statutory agencies to deliver training and education and we would like to expand this to a greater scale and reach an even bigger community.
“We believe that early intervention and education is essential to give our children the skills to make healthy choices as they progress through life.”