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Making a difference to people

30 September 2016

Reflections by HRB intern, Dr Thérése Lynn, following the recent launch of a project that was informed by data from HRB health information systems.

I attended the launch of the Evaluation Report of the HSE Naloxone Demonstration Project on Wednesday 31st August 2016. The event was held in Temple Bar, an area at the heart of the inner city drug problem. The Project involved prescribing Naloxone kits, an antidote to opiate overdose, and effective training on their use, to 600 people. The recipients were drug users, family and friends of drugs users and service providers. 

Hearing Minister Catherine Byrne launch the report - which recommends the national roll out of the Project in a measured, phased and strategic way - I was surrounded by poignant images of people who took part in the Project, as part of the HSE Photo Exhibition (by Tim Bingham). I was struck by the amount of work that had led to this day. Countless deaths by heroin and methadone overdose, thousands of shattered Irish families, years of debate and discussion and innumerable hours of work culminated in the gathering of all of these like-minded people on a fresh August morning, bolstered by the experience of the past and eagerly looking forward to a brighter future - a new tool to reduce the impact of overdoses in Ireland. 

It was timely that the Evaluation Report was launched on International Overdose Day and the theme of the day was a 'Time to Remember, Time to Act. The key message is that we must not forget the people who have lost their lives to the scourge of drug addiction and overdose and the families ravaged by this tragedy. Now is the time to act to stem the tide of drug-related deaths and damage. Working with the National Drug Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) and National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) in the HRB, this message resonates with me – we must remember and we must act. As reported in the figures from the NDRDI2, the deaths of 86 men and women were attributed to heroin overdoses in 2013 alone and 41.9% of these people were not alone at the time of death. This data really makes me understand the potential power of the Naloxone Demonstration Project and brings the importance of the work of the HRB into focus – we need the data to drive action. 

It was a privilege to be a part of the day, to help raise awareness about overdose and to reduce the stigma associated with drug-related deaths. One message rang clear to me; Naloxone presents us with the opportunity to save lives.  As one image displayed in the exhibition quotes,

'Choose life. We are gentle souls don’t ever forget it'.

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