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Home > Safetynet pilot methadone programme evaluated.

Bellerose, Delphine (2008) Safetynet pilot methadone programme evaluated. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 27, Autumn 2008 , p. 8.

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In December 2007 the Dublin Simon Emergency Shelter started to implement a methadone programme being piloted by the Safetynet service.1 The results of an internal evaluation undertaken after the programme had been running for six months were presented in a recent report.2

 The Shelter provides accommodation to homeless people for up to six months. A large majority of residents are active drug users, most of them injecting heroin. The direct consequences of their drug use include high levels of morbidity, often leading to hospitalisation, a significant number of evictions from the Shelter for unsafe drug use, and generally chaotic drug-using behaviour. Most residents were not receiving any form of treatment prior to joining the Safetynet programme, partly because of the waiting lists in many methadone clinics. Long waiting lists mean that many clients are not able to start treatment before their time in the Shelter is up, and the opportunity to address their drug problem and their homelessness at a time of relative stability is lost.
 
By providing on-site medical and nursing services, as well as a needle-exchange service, the Safetynet methadone programme has had a major impact on the residents and staff of the Shelter. Fourteen residents started the methadone programme during the six-month period. With little more additional budget than the standard cost for dispensing methadone, the first six months of the programme proved to be successful and the evaluation highlighted many benefits, such as:
 
·         marked reduction in drug use
·         marked reduction in morbidity, especially skin conditions and abscesses, largely attributed to the decrease in injecting by clients
·         reduction in the number of evictions
·         reduction in crime involvement
·         improvement in social functioning
·         improved opportunities to move to more permanent accommodation.
 
The report makes the following recommendations:
 
·         Increase the number of places on the programme from 10 to 55, with 25 of those allocated to residents of the Shelter.
·         Facilitate the transfer of clients to HSE drug treatment centres when that is deemed a more suitable option.
·         Provide an addiction counselling service linked to the programme.
 
1. Safetynet is a primary care network that provides GP and nursing services to homeless people. It was established in 2007 and is funded by the HSE.
2. Geraghty C, Harkin K and O’Reillly F (2008), Evaluation of the Safetynet methadone programme pilot at the Dublin Simon Emergency Shelter. Dublin: Dublin Simon Emergency Shelter.

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