Ballymena drug worker takes prize

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

A Ballymena man has been named Volunteer of the Year at this year’s NI Health and Social Care Awards 2022 for his work in supporting people who are tackling problem drug and alcohol use.

Neil Potter, who is a volunteer with local charity Extern, spoke movingly of how he has used his own past experiences with problem drug use to support others as a member of Extern’s Needle & Syringe Exchange team. Based in Belfast city centre, the service offers advice, information and support to help reduce risk of harm from issues associated with injecting drug use.

Based in Newtownabbey, Extern supports over 20,000 people across the island of Ireland every year through a range of innovative services.

Speaking following his win, Neil said: “I am overwhelmed at being picked out of so many deserving nominees to win this award.

“As someone who has experienced problem drug use in my own life, I know how important it is to have the right supports in place to help you manage day-to-day.

“The work that we do in the Needle & Syringe Exchange service really does make a difference to the lives of so many people, so this award is a recognition of every member of the team for their hard work and for their support for me with my own development as a volunteer. Thank you so much!”

Danny McQuillan, CEO of Extern, said: “Neil is a shining example of the organisation’s dedicated and compassionate teams of staff and volunteers.”

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