In 2020, Covid-19 significantly affected all our lives and impacted on how the Coolmine organisation operated and delivered services.
Our staff have been exceptional. Staff willingly took on new challenges including internal redeployment and new rosters, and adapted to new digital and online ways of working as we navigated the impact, threat and the reality of Covid-19. During the year we supported and adapted our residential treatment services, maintaining high levels of occupancy and we expanded and adapted our community, day and residential services to reflect the new normal and to better meet the national demand for high quality drug and alcohol support services. Even during Covid-19, growing drug use patterns are being experienced across Ireland. Client outcomes provide evidence that people can and do recover and go on to live fulfilled and productive lives.
Coolmine is playing a key role in delivering Ireland’s national policy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery: a Health-Led Approach to Drug and Alcohol Use in Ireland 2017 – 2025, most particularly in strengthening services to support families affected by substance misuse, helping individuals affected by substance misuse to build their recovery capital and increasing residential services for women, pregnant women, and postnatal women.
Coolmine works with people who are vulnerable and marginalised with lived experience of trauma. Mental health issues, homelessness and physical health issues are dominant. We see a prevalence of second and sometimes third generation families with addiction problems. Our work provides us with the opportunity to break that generational cycle of addiction, especially through working with the whole family community – mothers, fathers, and their children.
Coolmine’s Vision is clear. We believe that abstinence is not enough. Coolmine’s Board members, management and staff are committed to a vision of recovery where everyone has the opportunity to overcome addiction and live a fulfilled and productive life. In practical terms this means not only creating pathways to high quality treatment but also in developing recovery capital for our clients and their families which enable effective reintegration into their community. Our services are targeted at improvements in physical and psychological health and well-being, re-engagement with family, developing positive peer relationships, supporting access to housing, gaining employment and accessing training and development. We are focused on delivering quality outcomes which address the whole life needs of the individual.
We have an ambitious strategic plan which reflects our commitment to delivering evidence based high quality services and also our commitment to expand Coolmine day and residential services to meet the growing demand for services nationally. The Board monitors progress of our Strategic Plan at every Board meeting. At December 2020, measurable advances were demonstrated in our 2019-2022 Strategic Plan: Pathways to Recovery, with 70% of our strategic actions complete or had been significantly progressed. This included the expansion of our services, into the Mid-West and South West regions in partnership with the HSE and Limerick City and County Council.
In late 2020 we commenced a strategic growth risk assessment and commissioned an external consultant, to provide objective assurance to the board on the organisational capacity to meet the growth challenges, addressing the continued delivery of high quality and safe services and the maintenance of Coolmine’s culture.
Coolmine is committed to having safe and effective practices in place to ensure that quality and evidence-based care is provided for our client base. Clinical governance and reporting structures are in place which include a Board Clinical Quality and Safety Subcommittee and a Clinical Quality and Safety Group, who ensure a safe, quality service is delivered. Clinical Quality and Safety is achieved by adhering to quality standards, statutory frameworks and compliance.
Our reporting structures include client and staff feedback to ensure continuous improvement of our services. The Client Forum provides an opportunity for Coolmine clients to discuss the quality of care they are receiving and raise any concerns regarding their treatment programme. The Client Co-Ordinator is invited to attend Board meetings which allows for client views to be heard and responded to.
Following extensive onsite reviews, the Royal College of Psychiatrists UK presented reports in 2020 that Coolmine Ashleigh House met 100% of Standards reviewed and Coolmine Lodge met 99% of Standards reviewed. Both residential facilities were awarded CCQI Accreditation Community of Communities (COFC). We are the only service of our kind in Ireland to achieve this quality improvement accreditation.
Coolmine has an established research culture and is committed to providing evidence and sharing knowledge of the impact of our services, our practice and also to influence national drug policy. Research is overseen by our Research Advisory Group. In 2020 we supported numerous external study requests including an International evaluation utilising TCD PuP Data 2018 (Griffith University, Australia). During the year we were delighted to contribute to a European study, Gender and Drug Policy Ireland, submitted in 2020 to the European Council working group and published on the UCD repository. In collaboration with Greece (Kethea) and Spain (Projecto Hombre), we are evaluating the role that sports plays in creating, supporting and enhancing addiction recovery. Our paper titled Women’s Experiences of Mother & Child Residential Drug & Alcohol treatment & Factors that Impact on Progression Pathways: a Longitudinal Qualitative Study, is currently being finalised.
Coolmine is committed to upholding the highest standard of corporate governance. Board members are appointed on the basis of skills, knowledge and experience. Having identified required skills, two new directors joined the Board in 2020: Emma Farrell and Billy Carr.
The company’s constitution was reviewed and updated in 2020 and approved by the CRO and the Charities Regulator. We work within a robust framework of regulatory, statutory and legal governance obligations.
Coolmine have systems and procedures in place to ensure the safety of our clients, to ensure internal controls are in place and to manage presenting risks. This includes the annual work programmes of our five board sub-committees: Clinical Quality & Safety, Finance, Audit & Risk, Research Advisory Group and Nomination & Evaluation.
Arising from HSE Service Arrangement schedules and other compliance requirements, planning began in 2020 to hold a board training session to brief directors on their legal, regulatory and statutory governance obligations.
An annual evaluation of the effectiveness of our Board and sub committees takes place and is reviewed at our annual board away days. We have commissioned an independent, external review of Board effectiveness to take place in 2021 with specific reference to Board succession planning and organisation expansion.
We would like to thank all of our stakeholders, our funders, donors and strategic partners for their continuing support and engagement with the work of Coolmine. We are particularly grateful to our corporate partners for their timely support to us in this unprecedented year.
On behalf of the Board, I want to acknowledge and extend sincere thanks to the entire team in Coolmine for their professionalism and exceptional effort in an exceptional year.
Our thanks also to our Chief Executive Pauline McKeown who has provided outstanding leadership and commitment.
Board Members played a significant role in 2020 and gave extraordinary service, time and expertise to Coolmine on a voluntary basis. I thank each one for their guidance to me and their strong engagement and commitment to achieving Coolmine’s objectives.