Crisis and detox centres now vital

The campaign for a detox unit in Londonderry stepped up a gear on Thursday night at a meeting at which a harrowing video was played of a university student, inert, in a high-dependency bed for a year-and-a-half before dying from septicemia.

Three mothers whose sons died as a direct result of drug abuse shared their heartbreak at the Derry Policing and Community partnership meeting, held at St Columb’s Park House, which was chaired by PCSP vice-chairman, Una McCartney.

Andrew Quigley's mother Colette.

Andrew Quigley's mother Colette.

Theresa Burke, from Dungiven, was the last of three mothers to speak about the pain her family had suffered as a result of her son, Kealan’s drug abuse. The video of her son’s decline after he took an accidental overdose of heroine substitute methadone, shocked delegates and added weight to the call for an accessible crisis care and support package for families in the north west struggling to deal with the trauma caused by substance abuse.

First to speak was Karen Vandersypen, from Letterkenny, who talked about her heartbreak at having to fly to England with her daughter to switch off her son, Jimmy’s life support machine. The young man collapsed with a massive heart attack having smoked synthetic cannabis.

Collette Quigley, the mother of Andrew Quigley, whose body was recovered from the River Foyle almost a month after he went missing on 18 January last, spoke of her heartache as a parent left with little support as she tried to cope with her only child’s repeated suicide attempts because of his battle with drug abuse. She told the meeting that no one should have to face the struggle and heartbreak that she and her son had done.

The meeting was called specially to look at the extent of the drugs problem in the city and some of the delegates described the prevalence of drug abuse as having reached ‘epidemic levels’.

A wide range of support and advice groups set up information stands in the foyer of St Columb’s Park House, and a question and answer session followed the speakers.

There was overwhelming support for the three women and their appeal for crisis help and a dedicated detox or help centre to help young people caught up in the spiral of substance abuse.

Delegates who attended also spoke of their frustration at the lack of cohesive support services and voiced concern that instead of getting help young people were getting criminal records instead.