Monday, January 09, 2017

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More than 170 young people were referred to the Matt Talbot Adolescent Services in Cork last year. AEDIN JOHNSTON talks to the CEO about supporting those with addictions.

THERE is a rising tide of substance abuse in Cork city — even smoking hash is taken as a norm by many younger teens these days. It’s almost a rite of passage.

Matt Talbot Adolescent Services are a fantastic group who are trying to curb this rising tide by helping teenagers and young adults from the ages of 14 to 23 years with their drug and alcohol addiction.

Patrick Relihan, CEO for Matt Talbot Adolescent Services (MTAS), said: “Last year alone we had 173 young people referred to our charity. This included family members who also needed help and support as a result of the addiction of a loved one.

“The main problem we see is with alcohol and cannabis addiction, however in recent times there has been an increase in cocaine and MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) but it is constantly changing.”

The clients who avail of their services are referred by GP’s, school councillors, social workers, juvenile liaison officers, probation services and family members. They come mainly from the Cork and Kerry regions, but the charity also gets requests for help from further afield and nobody is ever refused.

Mr Relihan said the service is busy all year round.

“We are consistently busy; however there is a slight reduction in referrals in July and August. This is possibly due to the fact that many schools are on holidays and many of the referrals come through guidance councillors in schools.”

The service also found that 86% of the referrals to their charity are male and most people referred have both a drug and alcohol addiction.

Matt Talbott Adolescent Services (MTAS) which was founded in 1999 has four centres. Young people get their initial assessment at their assessment and day treatment centre in Trabeg Lawn, Douglas. Its main aim is to help young individuals realise and address their drug or alcohol addiction, in order to reduce the harm caused by it.

MTAS work from a harm reduction model, which basically means they accept for better or for worse that illicit substance misuse is part of our world today. However they try to introduce strategies and ideas to their clients aimed at reducing negative, harmful and often tragic consequences associated with drug and alcohol use in order to prevent it becoming a greater problem as they get older. Depending on the degree of dependency this could incorporate strategies for safer use, to managed use, to total abstinence. It depends on the needs of the young person and “where they’re at”.

When the levels of addiction are more severe, MTAS has a residential care service called Cara Lodge.

Young people with more serious substance misuse issues need a high level of care and support in order to help with their stabilisation and rehabilitation. This facility is capable of caring for six males between the ages of 14-18 years. (Females needing this type of treatment are referred to a facility in Co. Kilkenny, as Matt Talbot Adolescent Services do not have a treatment centre specifically for girls yet.)

The young men can stay for up to 12 weeks at Cara Lodge, which is located in a tranquil setting in West Cork. With the help of counselling, complimentary therapies and an activity programme, the participants are helped overcome and cope with their addictions. This facility also has an educational programme which provides access to the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and FETAC level 3 and 4 courses for the residents. Life skills such as cooking, kitchen and laundry skills are also taught to the young men.

They are also encouraged to get involved with project work while staying at Cara lodge. They are taught practical outdoor skills such as woodwork, building, working with animals and even growing their own vegetables, all with the view to achieving a more positive healthy lifestyle.

MTAS also have a Youth Enterprise Scheme (YES) on the Tramore Road, Cork. This educational training facility is aimed at 16 to 23-year-olds who are early school leavers and in need of a supportive learning environment. Here the students are offered FETAC level 4 in General learning and FETAC level 4 in sport and recreation. This year a commercial training kitchen was installed and they now provide a FETAC level 4 catering course. The students also have access to an art room, a computer room, a fully equipped gym, a pool room and table tennis room. This structured day programme caters for up to 12 students at a time.

Research has found that there is a more positive outcome if people are treated for addiction with the support of their family. As a result of this MTAS also provide a family support service at Mary Street in Cork. Here family members can get family counselling and individual counselling.

With the increase of the availability of drugs and alcohol at a young age it is very evident that Matt Talbot services is a badly needed service.

Mr Relihan said: “It’s a free, non-judgemental service. Sometimes family members are really worried about a loved one and the young person is reluctant to engage.

“However, if they can bring their loved one to us once, our professional staff will take over from there.”

Matt Talbot services can be contacted directly at 021-4896400 or


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