“I imagine that most people living in Dublin 15, like me, have walked past Coolmine Lodge for decades, not realising the depth of work that goes on there.
“Having joined the board of Coolmine in 2014 and meeting board members, staff and Coolmine programme participants, I very quickly learned that I knew almost nothing about addiction.
“I learned to understand that abstinence is not enough. That everyone should have the opportunity to overcome addiction and live a fulfilled and productive life. In practice, this means delivering high quality treatment and also targeting services to give people the opportunity to reengage with family, develop positive peer relationships, support access to housing and employment or to access training and development.
“On my first visit to Coolmine Lodge, a statement which was printed over the door of the group room had a big impact on me – “you alone can do it but you can’t do it alone”. I have found this phrase to be so appropriate and valuable in the context of family, community and business.
“The first client Graduation event I attended in Draíocht was amazing. This is where programme participants explain with disarming honesty their experiences of life in addiction and coming into the Coolmine programme. Another deep impact was learning that women’s experience of addiction is different to men. That women do not easily seek treatment for addiction, are subject to stigma and have lived experience of trauma.
“The Chief Executive’s reports to the board of directors are critical and following her advice that more than 60 women daily sought access to Coolmine’s services, the board made one of its most significant decisions in recent years, to establish a temporary residential facility In the Midwest for pregnant women and women with children. The first phase of this project was realised in 2020 with the opening of community day services in Mahon House in Limerick City.The second phase saw Coolmine open a residential service for pregnant women and women with children in Limerick in 2022. It is fantastic that we can now no longer say that Coolmine Ashleigh House is the only such residential treatment centre in Ireland. The third phase, to open a permanent residential facility, faces serious challenges. However, we remain determined to establish that facility, in partnership with the HSE and Limerick City and County Council.
“A hugely significant milestone in the expansion and establishment of Coolmine’s services on a national basis in 2020 saw Coolmine partnering with the HSE to consolidate and manage the drug and alcohol services in counties Cork and Kerry.
“It is remarkable to witness board members using their skills, knowledge and experience individually and collectively, to support the Chief Executive and her team to ensure excellent governance and in particular to manage the risks relating to Coolmine’s rapid expansion. Being a board member carries significant legal responsibilities but working with skilled and committed board members and an outstanding Chief Executive makes the job very satisfying.
“Coolmine works with people who are vulnerable and marginalized with lived experience of trauma, mental health issues, homelessness and physical health issues. We see a prevalence of second and sometimes third generation families with addiction problems and a central part of our work is to break that generational cycle of addiction especially through working with mothers, fathers and their children.
“I have found Coolmine staff to be exceptional. I learn from them all the time. Operating residential facilities during the COVID years was uniquely challenging but our staff took on these challenges and adapted to new ways of working. Tripling staff headcount in recent years has been managed with an excellent training and development programme together with a solid performance management system and team building.
“Coolmine has an established research culture. One of my hopes for the future would be that we would follow up on the Trinity College Dublin Longitudinal Outcomes research that provided evidence that 72% of Coolmine clients remain illicit drug free two years after treatment.
“I love talking to Coolmine programme participants. I find that the residential facilities are places of great hope. Ashleigh House is a house of real joy. “Changed my life” and “saved my life” are phrases used commonly by participants of Coolmine’s programmes. it’s such an honor to contribute to an organization that is involved in producing outcomes that change lives and save lives. Such an amazing experience!
“Ireland will see a continuing demand for addiction services and Coolmine will continue to develop and improve over the next 50 years, focused on delivering quality outcomes.”