Pharmacies in Westmeath join new initiative to help domestic abuse victims

Twenty pharmacies in Westmeath have signed up to be part of a new 'Safe Pharmacy' initiative to support victims of domestic abuse and coercive control .

The participating pharmacies will display a purple ‘Safe Pharmacy’ sign, and will provide victims with access to a phone and contact details for support services in the security of a private consultation room.

The initiative is being led by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), in partnership with Safe Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the HSE.

While 20 pharmacies in Westmeath have so far signed up, the IPU said it expects many more to get involved.

It said the initiative would provide any person who is experiencing domestic abuse with a safe and secure location to seek support.

Participating pharmacies will provide access to a phone in a private consultation room and contact details for local support services. This will allow victims to make that important call, for example to a family member, local specialist domestic violence services, or An Garda Síochána.

Anyone who is experiencing a domestic abuse situation and wishes to seek the support provided is advised to look for the purple 'Safe Pharmacy' sign on the window displays of participating pharmacies.

In the pharmacy, they should ask to speak to the pharmacist in the consultation room. This happens multiple times a day in every pharmacy so will not appear out of the ordinary to anyone who is in the pharmacy at the time.

In the privacy and security of the consultation room the person can inform the pharmacist that they require support and this will be provided.

Welcoming the launch of Safe Pharmacy, community pharmacist and Safe Pharmacy participant, Oonagh O'Hagan said, “Domestic abuse is an issue that affects people in every community. Safe Pharmacy will create access to safe points of contact in practically every town and village in the country.

"Pharmacies are a trusted part of our communities with highly trained and compassionate staff. By partnering with Safe Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the HSE we hope that this initiative will provide a pathway from abuse for those who are experiencing it.

"Anyone who seeks the support of a Safe Pharmacy will be treated with compassion and respect can and be assured of full confidentiality.

"For anyone who is in need of help, I would say to them: All that’s needed is that you ask for help. You will be prioritised. You will be believed. You will be supported."

Detective Superintendent Sinéad Greene, of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, said, "Sadly, it's often the case that victims of domestic abuse and coercive control feel that they don't have someone to turn to for vital support or to disclose what they are experiencing.

"The Covid pandemic made it even more difficult for victims to seek safety and in response, Gardaí continue to reach out to provide reassurance and to guide those affected to access local and specialised resources.

"In extending access to their private consultation room, the pharmacies that are part of Safe Pharmacy will be providing victims with a safe environment to access support, away from the perpetrator."