Home > The National Family Support Network

Lynn, Ena (2021) The National Family Support Network. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 78, Summer 2021, pp. 37-38.

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The National Family Support Network (NFSN)1 ceased operations on Monday, 26 April 2021. The original Family Support Network was established in 2000 following the successful organisation by family support groups of the first Service of Commemoration and Hope. This spiritual, multidenominational service is held in remembrance of loved ones lost to substance misuse and related causes and to publicly support and offer hope to families living with the devastation that substance misuse causes. Subsequent to the success of this event and the evident desire of families to continue with such events, the Family Support Network was formed under the auspices of the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign.

The Family Support Network membership consists of representatives of family support groups, individual family members, and those working directly with families of people who use drugs across the island of Ireland. The network was set up as an autonomous self-help organisation that provided support to families and respected the experiences of families affected by substance misuse in a welcoming non-judgemental atmosphere. In 2007, the Family Support Network gained recognition as an autonomous national organisation.

On Monday, 22 March 2021, the NFSN held its 22nd Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean MacDermott Street, Dublin, with this yearʼs service available online.2 Speaking at the service, the networkʼs outgoing CEO Sadie Grace highlighted the ongoing devastation associated with drug use, including drug-related deaths, for families and communities across Ireland. She called for person-centred care, access to treatment, and early interventions for people who use drugs. Sadie emphasised that living with a family member who has an addiction to a substance(s) was a major life stressor, with other family members experiencing both physical and emotional health impacts as a result. She stressed that these families represent the hidden costs of the drug crisis in Ireland. She also called on the State to take meaningful action to combat the ‘horror’ of drug-related intimidation.

Achievements of NFSN

As Sadie retires from her role in NFSN after giving 27 years to family support, she outlined some of the achievements of the network during her leadership:

  • Advocating and securing the development of the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) 
  • Advocating and assisting in achieving greater access to naloxone, including involvement in the HSE Naloxone Demonstration Project  
  • Assisting families pay for funeral expenses, with the generous support of the Archdiocese of Dublin 
  • Advocating and achieving advanced bereavement-specific supports and respite for families affected by drug-related deaths 
  • Developing interventions to help families experiencing drug-related intimidation
  • Developing and operating a biannual bereavement support programme 
  • Reporting on the impact of drug-related deaths on families, which led to the first specific addiction bereavement support for families 
  • Conducting research into the outcomes, especially health outcomes for family members living with loved ones with addiction.

She said the network continued to call for:

  • Family support coordinators to be based in every drug taskforce area; and she was encouraged by the support of Minister Frank Feighan TD in this regard 
  • Actions to be prioritised in the national drugs strategy for families, including supports for kinship carers and respite for families 
  • Specific national bereavement support services for families 
  • Meaningful action on the issue of drug-related intimidation. 

Recognition of NFSN

In his address, Minister Feighan reinforced the message that drug addiction is a health issue and not a criminal issue, where focus must be on recovery options not punishment. Drug-related intimidation is an area of concern, which he believes requires special attention, and he welcomed the evaluation of the drug-related intimidation reporting programme carried out by the NFSN and An Garda Síochána. Minister Feighan supports the Government’s decision to develop a medically supervised drug injecting facility in Dublin and highlighted that, as a society, Ireland needs to have a more open and tolerant approach to drug use. An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, in his address, gave a commitment to fulfil the Government's responsibility in the national drugs strategy.

Many speakers on the night of the Service of Commemoration and Hope praised the work of NFSN and its dedicated staff, especially the unreserved dedication, commitment, and drive of Sadie Grace in her support to people and family members affected by drug use. They passed on their best wishes to Sadie while she moves to a new chapter in her life.

Following the service, panel discussions were held to discuss various aspects in relation to NFSN, the service itself, and the impact of drug use on families, which can be viewed online via the NFSN website.2 Contact details for local and regional family support networks are currently available via the NFSN website.1 

1   The National Family Support Network ceased operations on Monday, 26 April 2021, as reported on their website: www.fsn.ie

2   To view the service, visit: http://www.fsn.ie/news-events/events/service-of-commemoration-and-hope-22nd-march-2021

Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 78, Summer 2021
August 2021
Page Range
pp. 37-38
Health Research Board
Issue 78, Summer 2021

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