NEW guidance has been published on meetings for drug and alcohol, and other addiction support groups under Level 3 and Level 4 public health restrictions. On Tuesday, Minister Frank Feighan published guidelines which permit face-to-face meetings in controlled circumstances.
The issue had been raised by Senator Martin Conway when Dublin and Donegal entered Level 4 last month, when he called for support meetings to continue in-person, given the serious nature of addiction and the vulnerability of those who may not have access to online services.
The guidance recommends holding meetings outdoors or online, where possible “without diluting the benefits for participants”.
In cases where face-to-face group/programme meetings take place, organisers are advised to
undertake a risk assessment to ensure the health, welfare and safety of participants.
Individuals at higher risk from Covid-19, or in close contact with such individuals, are told to avoid faceto-face group/programmes meetings and instead attend meetings online.
“The reality is that there are huge numbers of people in Clare and across the country who depend on support services to help them cope with their addictions,” he said. “I have had a lot of contacts from people who absolutely rely on them and who need human contact and face-to-face support in coping with their addictions.”
Senator Conway, who is Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on health, again commended the work of the addiction services in striving to cater online for as many people as possible. “Great work has been done on contacting people in a virtual format,” he said. “That has worked and helped many people. However, for many people – especially those who have no access to online platforms, for whatever reason – person-to-person contact is absolutely essential. I very much welcome the fact that the minister has listened to those of us who have raised concerns and there is no doubt that face-to-face meetings will help many people who are really struggling because of the fall-out from the pandemic.”