What is DACS?

Extern set up DACS in 2017 to build on our expertise in supporting people with alcohol or drug problems. This service sprang from 20 years of delivering services in the homelessness and addictions field in NI. Extern are now the largest provider of drugs and alcohol support services in the country. These services include:

What does DACS do?

DACS provides specialist training commissioned by the Public Health Agency for particular groups. These courses include:

  • Naloxone Administration: Opioid overdose response
  • Naloxone Administration: Training for trainers
  • Reducing Injecting-Related Harms
  • Needle and Syringe Provision

We also provide drug-related information resources such as on naloxone, pregabalin and an assessment of injecting drug use.

Queens University Belfast have partnered with us in setting up the new Masters in Substance Use Disorders, available in 2019. We will deliver some of the teaching content as part of the collaboration as well as chair the programme.

DCAS promotes the work Extern does in the drugs and alcohol field and seeks to ensure that those who use drugs and alcohol in harmful ways receive the best possible support and treatment options. The pressures on frontline staff and services are immense but can be ameliorated by staff who are competent and confident in their practice, understand the issues faced by their clients and are effective in their work. DACS aims to ensure they are equipped in these ways.

We have been invited to speak about Extern services at worldwide conferences in Montreal in 2017 and New Orleans in 2018. In addition we hosted our own conference in February 2018 in response to increasing concerns about injecting drug use in Belfast city centre.

DACS receive many queries for assistance both within Extern and externally. We aim to respond to all requests within a week. A recent example of this is a request from a homelessness service on managing drug-related risks in the hostel environment. In this case the staff team were provided training and their management assisted to develop an effective drugs policy.

Why do we provide DACS?

Extern believe that everyone should have repeated chances to fulfil their potential and to reach their maximum possible level of independence. We have adopted low threshold and harm reduction approaches to help us to engage and intervene positively with those who use drugs or alcohol in harmful ways.

A low threshold approach is one which makes it easy to enter the service and harm reduction seeks to reduce drug-related harms without requiring abstinence. These approaches allow us to provide person-centred interventions and maximise the therapeutic alliance so important to any health behaviour change.


The service is staffed by Chris Rintoul with support from a range of other staff within Extern who are experienced workers in the field. Chris has been a qualified social worker since 1999 and has worked within the homelessness and addictions sectors since 1994. He has worked for Extern since 2016 and held posts in the voluntary and statutory sectors previous to then.

Specialist Training

Naloxone Training

Naloxone is an easy to administer medication which temporarily reverses an opioid overdose by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain. It is an emergency medication, in the same category as epinephrine (for anaphylaxis) and glycogen (for diabetic coma). In NI we give out naloxone and train relevant people to administer it after they undertake relevant training. In support of this, Extern deliver 2 training courses for those working with people at risk of opioid overdose.

These full-day courses are delivered by staff with expertise on the management of this issue. Chris Rintoul, who manages Extern’s Drugs and Alcohol Consultancy Service will deliver the formal teaching content.

The 2 courses available are:

1. Training for Trainers
2. Training on Naloxone Administration

Upcoming training dates

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Introduction to Reducing Injecting-related Harms training

Extern are pleased to offer this 1 day training course over the course of 2019 and 2020. It is available free of charge as a result of Public Health Agency (PHA) funding.

The learning objectives for the day are:

1. Participants will have an understanding of heroin use: the injecting process; injecting equipment; where on the body people inject; smoking heroin.

2. Participants will have an understanding of the risks involved in injecting (types of blood borne viruses and infection risks; high risk injection sites; infections /abscesses, deep vein thrombosis.)

3. Participants will have an understanding of basic harm reduction practices in relation to injecting drug use.

4. Participants will know what services are available for injecting drug users; and will be aware of the care pathways for their clients.

Upcoming training dates

Book my place

For more information, contact our DACS team at [email protected] 

Contact us

Further information is available by emailing [email protected] or by calling +44 2890 840 555

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