Press Release

Merchants Quay Ireland Launches 2020 Annual Review

Merchants Quay Ireland Launches 2020 Annual Review


-More people availing of addiction services due to lockdown

-Charity warns of long-term impact of pandemic on drug and alcohol usage

-For some, pathway out of addiction was put on hold

The long-term impact of the prolonged national lockdown, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on drug and alcohol use has yet to become apparent, according to Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), the national homelessness and addiction charity, which launched its Annual Report 2020.

The 2020 Annual Review, launched today by Labour Party TD Ivana Bacik, shows that 9,882 people accessed its services last year. The charity said the full impact on people’s mental and physical health may not be realized for years to come. You can view the recording of MQI’s Annual Report event here.

The 2020 Annual Review shows that despite the enormous challenges that the pandemic presented, MQI’s quick response ensured life-saving services, ranging from food and health care to residential detox and rehabilitation, remained open throughout 2020.

Details include:

  • MQI provided 49,884 meals on a take-away basis to people who are homeless, with an average of 130 meals provided daily;
  • 9,728 primary health care appointments were attended by 2,045 clients;
  • 4,083 unique individuals engaged with the Harm Reduction Riverbank and Outreach Teams, where they learned how to minimise the risks of drug use and were provided the option of a pathway into treatment. This resulted in 38,925 interventions in 2020- an 18% increase on the previous year;
  • 1174 unique clients engaged with our Homeless Crisis Contact team with 9,867 interventions compared with 653 clients and 4504 interventions in 2019. And increase of 79% in unique client numbers.
  • MQI’s Young person support worker supported 262 young people aged between 18 – 24 – an increase of 72 people (37%) on last year.
  • 1298 people accessed the MQI Midlands Service, a 61% increase on 2019’s figure of 787 clients supported;
  • There was a total of 891 referrals to MQI recovery services, with 517 assessments carried out. 137 clients were admitted to services and 115 completed the programmes. All 891 people referred to the service received ongoing support through phone/video. Providing pathways out of drugs is a key aspect of MQI’s work and residential detoxification and drug-free rehabilitation programmes were in strong demand in 2020.

In addition to its existing services, MQI staff partnered with the HSE Homeless Health Link team to provide health and social supports to people in shielding and self-isolation units. MQI staff also operated a 40-bed community facility for vulnerable adults on behalf of the HSE between April and August 2020.

In launching the Annual Review, the charity called for a range of measures to help tackle the homeless and addiction crisis:

  • Urgent provision of gender specific services for women with complex needs;
  • Increased investment in mental health to ensure greater collaboration between mental health and addiction services;
  • Additional investment in both residential and community detox;
  • Increased supported housing for people who are leaving drug treatment;
  • Additional support for young people leaving care at risk of homelessness or addiction;
  • Continued commitment from the Government for the delivery of a Medically Supervised Injecting Facility in Dublin.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Merchants Quay Ireland Chief Executive Paula Byrne said:

“2020 was a year of challenge and change for everyone in Ireland. For MQI clients – women and men who are homeless and struggling with mental health issues and addiction – it was an exceptionally difficult year. Our clients endured greater isolation and fear than ever before as day services across the city were restricted due to the impact of the pandemic. The full impact on people’s mental and physical health may not be realized for years to come.

“At MQI, we have seen an increase in demand for our addiction services. For some clients their addiction deepened.

“For others their recovery journey was delayed or put on hold.

“The reality for our clients is that COVID-19 was just one more trauma on top of a life-time of trauma. It is crucial that the government holds to its commitment to prioritise the issues of drugs, mental health and homelessness and will provide the leadership and resources needed to address these issues in a real and meaningful way. With the right support, vulnerable people can and do rebuild their lives and reach their full potential.”

— ENDS —

Notes to the editor:

Please see PDF for the MQI Annual Report 2020


About Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland is the national charity working with people who are homeless and in addiction. The organisation provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services to day-support programmes, residential treatment, detox, and prison counselling.

For more information or to arrange an interview, or to access imagery, please contact:
Laura McDowell
Communications Officer
086 779 3206

Other key statistics from 2020 Annual Review:

  • 222* people were supported by our mental health team, who provided 3,095* interventions to this client group
  • 2,263* clients accessed our general nursing team of this figure 642* were unique clients.
  • The GP service had 4,279 visits, helping people with a variety of acute and chronic illnesses. 483 unique clients accessed Opioid Substitution Treatment and 263 unique clients were prescribed Naloxone
  • 1,948 prisoners accessed the National Prison-Based Addiction Counselling Service
  • 130 people were supported by our East Coast service in Wicklow and Arklow town
  • The number of women accessing MQIs services including the addiction counselling service within the Irish Prison Service was 1,779 and the number of men accessing services is 8,103.
    *Figures do not include those clients supported by MQI staff while working with the HSE Homeless Healthlink Team between April & August 2020
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