Belfast Telegraph

Anti-drugs body casts its aid network wider

by Fiona Rutherford

Three north Belfast groups which teamed up to help people battling drug and alcohol problems have expanded their programme to take on people dealing with suicide as well as local schoolchildren trying to quit smoking.

The Drug and Alcohol Awareness (DAA) programme is the result of a partnership between the North Belfast Community Development and Transition Group (NBCDTG), Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) and Groundwork Northern Ireland.

Launched at the beginning of 2010 the programme has been running in Tigers Bay, Westland, Upper Ardoyne and Ballysillan and surrounding areas.

Sylvia Gordon, Director of Groundwork NI said: “We are witnessing the tangible impacts that this programme is having... reaching the real people |in need.”

The programme aims to help the communities deal with the misuse of alcohol, drugs and other substances through training, group work, mentoring, and alternative therapies. The clinics for vulnerable pupils at the Boys’ and Girls’ Model Schools have been a major factor in its success.

Alison Harte, a behavioural mentor at the Belfast Model School for Girls, was faced with a new challenge at the start of 2010 in the form of some very ‘stressed out’ students after ‘tightened’ security at the new school building had stopped them sneaking out for a cigarette between classes.

With the pupils suffering withdrawal and unable to concentrate on lessons, Alison asked FASA for assistance.

Soon, the first hour on Monday mornings were spent with therapist, Kim Wilson, who used acupuncture based treatments to help the girls with their ‘need’ for nicotine.

FASA is also working with Triangle Housing on debt and housing issues as well as other statutory and voluntary agencies and within a number of other schools in north Belfast.

Alex Bunting, Programme Manager, FASA said: “The work with the secondary schools has been particularly successful and teachers have reported that the weekly treatments have had a positive impact on the behaviour and work of the students involved.”

The suicide awareness team within FASA is also supporting residents dealing with suicide and bereavement and working with community representatives to tackle drugs issues locally.

“This has allowed the development of a community based frontline service that is able to assess the needs of, advise and signpost those requiring help,” said John Howcroft, NBCDTG.

Fred Cobain MLA said the programme was an example of what could be achieved through collaboration.

The DAA programme is expected to expand and develop in 2011.

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