Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Ed Sipler

ED SiplerED Sipler, 55, is a Health Development Specialist in alcohol and drugs working for the South Eastern Health Trust.

Originally from Philadelphia, Ed first came to Northern Ireland in 1979 to work with a cross community summer scheme. After he got married he returned to the province in 1982 and has lived and worked here ever since. Ed lives in Strangford with his wife and children Niamh and Kevin.

No two days are the same for me. My role is so varied, it really does depend on what projects I am working on.

The thrust of all my work is trying to prevent alcohol and drug related problems. No one person or agency can do this on their own, so working in real partnership is crucial to do things that work. How we shaped drug education in schools, developing the Chrysalis Programme, has been one of the best examples of how working together can really make a difference.

Currently, most of my work is in four areas. The first two are in supporting groups and strategic development. The third is developing resources and support materials for people affected by alcohol and drugs and their families and the forth is in staff training.

An example of these materials is Taking the Lid Off. It is a workbook to support people living with a family member's addiction. What has made this resource so useful? It was written with strong input from the relatives support group in Shimna House. Training workers on ways to use this resource has also built its effectiveness. To date over 200 workers have been trained and the project won second place in last year's Department of Health Quality Award.

Other resources include self help guilds to address alcohol misuse, cannabis use and for parents finding their children getting involved with alcohol or drugs. All these resources can be found at in the local resources section.

Training staff involves building knowledge and skills to help workers help people change. Anyone who has stopped smoking or lost weight knows how challenging change this can be.

One the high points of my career was training I received myself in motivational interviewing and now in training others in what is a very effective way of working with people.

I am on the Eastern Drugs and Alcohol Coordination Team (EDACT) a multi-agency partnership with responsibility for implementing the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs for Northern Ireland at a local level.

In addition to this I do one day a week in the Addiction Treatment Unit in Downshire Hospital. The rest of the week can be at meetings, on the phone or sitting at the computer.

This one day is when I do what I probably enjoy the most in my work, working with people.

It really helps when you see your work being used in other areas. Problems that come with alcohol and drug abuse can be devastating for families and it's whenever you get feedback that these resources and programmes have made a difference in people's lives you realise how important this work is. It is a really humbling experience.

Seeing people move past abuse of alcohol and drugs, family members getting support, staff feeling more confident in their work is the feedback you need to keep going. It tells me that my role and efforts are worthwhile.


Ulster Star