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The Bonnybrook Fairfield Family Resource Support Group is a lifeline for parents of children suffering from drug abuse and addiction, says Susan Hanlon.
“They do amazing work,” said Hanlon, a board member of the group, on the phone on Monday. “It’s traumatic, you live through the addiction along with your child.”
The Darndale group is led by a support worker, and hosts talk circles, educates parents about drug abuse, refers people to counsellors, and holds self-care, meditation and art classes.
Parents learn they aren’t alone in their struggles, says Hanlon. “Rather than sitting at home worrying and wondering.”
But on 28 October, the group’s contract with the HSE ended and its funding was cut. The HSE is also looking to use the rooms in the Brookhaven Resource Centre on Glin Road where the group was housed.
A HSE spokesperson said on Monday that the HSE plans to add its own family support service, after it sorts out the lease for the building with Dublin City Council. Some community groups can use the building too if they want, they said.
Right now, the group is still using the building, although they’re operating voluntarily, says Hanlon.
But Hanlon says that while more services are welcome, to continue to operate the way it does right now, it needs quick, easy access to the building, she says.
“It was a 24-hour service,” she says. “Unfortunately now, we wouldn’t have access to the centre to be able to do such quick crisis intervention.”
The Brookhaven Resource Centre on Glin Road sits behind two giant brick buildings, one a sports centre the other a training centre.
St Columbans Sports and Youth Club uses the southern end of the building and nearby pitch. The HSE’s community healthcare organisation uses the northern end.
The Bonnybrook Fairfield Family Resource Support Group had its own rooms upstairs in the HSE end of the building, says Deirdre Smyth, the chief executive of the Northside Centre for the Unemployed, which was on the building committee when the Brookhaven Resource Centre was built.
The support group had been granted a licence to use the building in 2004 as part of a 25-year lease with the HSE, she says.
“The top floor was theirs until 2029 and then it needs to be renegotiated. But until 2029, that should be the Bonnybrook-Fairfield,” she says.
Dublin City Council owns the site, said a council spokesperson on Tuesday. “The centre was built under licence to the HSE and funded by the HSE and St. Columbian’s FC.”
“The council has agreed to lease the property to the HSE and the legal formalities are currently being finalised,” said the spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the HSE reiterated that it is currently regularising that lease agreement with the council. It “intends to agree a sub-lease to St Columban’s Football Club and where agreed, other voluntary groups”, they said.
The HSE will continue to provide access to the building, said the spokesperson, “to an agreed list of groups”.
The HSE is currently redoing the building to meet standards around fire safety, disability access and estate management, they said.
“Upon signing a lease agreement with Dublin City Council, the HSE will assume responsibility for the activities of the building, security and health and safety,” said the HSE spokesperson.
Smyth says the support group should be able to access the building as before. “We want it to remain a community building. You can’t give [the HSE] a lease, and not give the others the licences that was agreed in 2004.”
Smyth says she doesn’t have a written copy of the licence, she says. “But we do know that that’s what was agreed.”
Two weeks earlier, Smyth had come upon somebody from the HSE outside the Bonnybrook centre, she says. She says they were waiting for a locksmith to change the locks to the building.
“We got onto the HSE and said that they had no authority to change the locks,” she says. The locks weren’t changed.
The HSE spokesperson said that access to the centre has been resolved and the HSE’s northside community healthcare organisation apologises for any confusion caused due to “a temporary issue with access” the the building by agreed groups.
The HSE’s northside community healthcare organisation is in active contact with all support groups while the lease is regularised to facilitate access, they said.
The family resource group was started by parents who were trying to help their kids away from drug abuse in the late 1990s, says Smyth. “They used to sit outside on the green, at the side of the green, and chase the drug dealers away every evening.”
They became a drug-awareness group, she says. “They lobbied and lobbied for years to try and get a treatment centre in this area, for the kids in the area.”
The drug awareness group used the centre for two years after the building was built before getting funding from the HSE to hire a support worker, she says.
A HSE spokesperson said that: “In order to provide funding and resources, including accommodation, to community and voluntary groups, [the HSE community healthcare organisation] must be satisfied with all aspects of governance”.
The HSE spokesperson said that it plans to increase the service provision in the Brookhaven Satellite Clinic.
“Including a modern, evidenced based family support service with the inclusion of all existing groups that utilise the building maintaining access, including Bonnybrook/Fairfield Parent and Family Support Group in a voluntary capacity, if they wish to continue using the building,” they said.
Smyth says the issue isn’t with a new service. “We welcome that because it’s needed,” she says. “But it’s also, that group needs their access to their building to do whatever, their community training, their parent support, all that sort of stuff.”
Darndale is still struggling with drug abuse, with heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and pills circulating the area, says Hanlon.
“We’re not opposed to anyone coming into that centre,” says Hanlon. “Great to see things are moving, coming along and growing.”
But she’s worried the service won’t be open at all hours as it had been for people, she says. “There was never not the right time. Never not a time that you couldn’t contract someone in a crisis and not get the support there and then.”
Smyth says that in a meeting with some HSE representatives, it seemed that the HSE planned to be the ones to decide who would use the building and when.
“You’ll have to request a spot, and if there’s a spot you’ll get it, but if there isn’t, you won’t. That’s basically what he said,” said Smyth.
When the service lost its contract, it was abrupt, says Smyth. “People in the community don’t realise. People are still going to come in droves for that service.”
Hanlon said on Tuesday that the support group was there that evening, even though its funding has been cut.
“But when the HSE do move into the building, they’re going to have their schedule, we’re going to have to contact them to get access to the rooms,” she says.
“Hopefully it will continue to support each other, because those issues are still around, still prominent in the group,” she says.