The Ringsend and District Response to Drugs (RDRD), located at The Spellman Centre in Irishtown, has done so much to support this community. This year it celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin generously invited the centre’s staff, graduates and friends to the Mansion House to celebrate the event in grandeur.
The centre was established in 1995 by its current manager Teresa Weafer and the late Fr. Paul Spellman. Teresa was a community Youth Worker at the time who saw first-hand the harm addiction was doing to young people and their families. Fr. Paul was a Parish Priest. With the indispensable assistance of Betty Bissett they set-up the RDRD.
The project’s goal was, and remains: ‘to support young people and their families in their struggle to become free of drugs’.
Community is key.
The centre has 10 staff who work so hard for so long. It is only made possible because of their passion for helping people and their families within the community. They work tirelessly, and it pays off. Approximately 85% of the centre’s service users succeed in breaking free of drugs.
With the comprehensive support of the centre’s staff, board of managers, and the community, most recoveries make new, productive lives for themselves. There are many success stories, including people who have attained recognition as experts in their profession, and students who excel in their college studies. They could not have done this on their own. With the support of the RDRD and the local community, anything is possible.
The centre is staffed by Mary Doolan, a senior staff member; Lisa Byrne supervises the CE Scheme; Tony Fallon, Darren Dent, and Garett Redmond work in rehabilitation; Robbie McGuire and Michael Stanley focus on Harm Reduction, and Sinead Kavanagh and Saibh O’Brien are Key Workers. Teresa Weafer does much more than manage the centre, she leads from the front and embodies the indomitable spirit to support people and their families that drives the centre’s staff and supporters.
The Ringsend and District Response to Drugs (RDRD) was established when the founding members met up in ‘the attic’, an upstairs room, in Regal House on Fitzwilliam Street Ringsend in 1995. A year later the RDRD had passed all validation checks and quality assurance and began operating on a permanent basis.
Many young Dubliners were within the callous grip of heroin and a young woman with a Diploma in Community and Youth Work saw the need for intervention in this community. With the help of Fr. Paul and others she started something special.
One year later they celebrated the recovery of their first service user. At the time, they had to mask the event as a 21st birthday party. Drug addiction has a considerable stigma attached to it, and at the time RDRD did not have the full support of the local community, which they have since built up. Now the centre can openly celebrate the graduation of its service users who have overcome addiction, even to the point of this year’s ceremony taking place in the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House.
The Spellman Centre strives to put in place holistic supports for its service users. To leave a weak point, a support unfulfilled, is to invite relapse. The centre cannot provide all supports that can possibly be required by all users, so it works increasingly closely with other agencies and people within the community. To this end, the centre offers awareness training to other stakeholders who can be of assistance.
At this year’s Spellman Awards, 12 people graduated from the awareness training, and their support to the centre and its service users was gratefully recognised.
As a schoolgirl, Teresa Weafer saw a need for supports within her community. She spoke out for the youth who needed help. She has never stopped and to this day continues to work tirelessly for the most vulnerable in society.
The centre helps all sorts of addicts, including drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Over the past year the centre has assisted 178 families with all sorts of support. The centre and its dedicated staff help addicts and their families in any way they can.
The success story could not have happened, or continue to happen, without the excellent work done by the RDRD’s strong board of management and their support for Teresa Weafer. There are too many to name, and their patronage too numerous to list, but they include:
Tom Crilly, Chairman, a local teacher and key supporter of the project. Tom is also heavily involved in youth out-reach.
John Lynch, who even comes in to help out those in need on Christmas Day. John is also involved in St. Vincent De Paul, and has helped many successful graduates of the project access funding for further training and education.
Betty Bissett is the hard-working Vice Chair and founding member of RDRD.
Paul Meleady’s empathy with the service users is unparalleled. He is also an experienced Project Worker.
Doctor Michael Ryan is an indispensable aid to the work of the centre and he specialises in the administration of Methadone.
Fr. Ivan Tonge provides comforting and non-judgmental spiritual support and guidance to service users on 12 Step programs.
Amongst many other supporters and stakeholders whom there is not enough room to mention, Community Liaison Officer Garda Anthony Kelly has returned to offer his invaluable support and insight to the management board.
The centre could not function so effectively with such a high success rate without the input of all these people and many more who have gone unacknowledged but who are known and appreciated by all in Ringsend and District Response to Drugs.
The Spellman Centre has 35 people on its Community Employment programme, 10 hardworking staff, and a strong, supportive board. It is well supported by the Department of Social Protection (DSP), the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the Drugs Task Force. Without their continued support the centre could not operate and help so many people. Yet it is missing one thing: a strong experienced woman to work with mothers and their children. Hopefully, this can be addressed soon.
In addition to direct support to addicts within the community and their families, last year the centre conducted some very valuable research. It found that cannabis and alcohol are typical gateway drugs to drug abuse and addiction.
Weed and Polydrugs, the most commonly abused substances now, have a lasting and harmful impact on users’ lives; Heroin is still a major problem but is no longer as common as it was in the 1990s. Gambling is also a major problem for families and addicts.
Teresa Weafer is unusually well placed, experienced, and qualified to lead the project to tackle addiction in the community. She has over 20 years’ experience working on the front lines. Her excellent postgraduate training in Addiction and Conflict Resolution at Trinity College Dublin has proved very beneficial to her working as a keystone stakeholder in the community’s efforts to combat addiction.
The holistic strategy to support addicts and their families involves many different government agencies, local support, community initiatives, and individuals to work together to help the most vulnerable. Teresa’s deft handling of this great responsibility is quite simply priceless.
By Keith Murphy