As spokesperson for the local charity said they had been aware of the “ongoing problem” for a long time but that Saturday’s tragic events in which teenager Caitlin White (Shortland) died had “brought things to a head”.
The first will be held this Thursday night (May 25) in Portadown Town Hall and will be attended by representatives from community, residents and youth groups from across the town, and both side of the religious divide.
A spokesperson for Portadown Cares said the aim is to form a steering group which will work to help alleviate the problem.
Meanwhile, next Thursday, June 1, a community information evening, which is open to the public, will take place at the Seagoe Hotel at 7pm.
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It will be held in conjunction with Start 360, a support service for young people. There will be practical information on what drugs looks like, signs to look for that young people have taken drugs, and advice for parents on managing children in difficult and challenging situations.
The Portadown Cares spokesperson added, “Once the group is formed, we are hoping to run a programme for young people on drug and alcohol awareness and harm reduction.”
Doug Beattie, the Ulster Unionist Westminster candidate for Upper Bann, said the area where the tragedy happened is one where “strenuous efforts” had been made to bring about regeneration and provide facilities for young people, following the closure of the community centre.
“I would particularly commend the efforts of Campbell Best and the outreach team from Y-Zone, who have been working to regenerate the woodlands and create a space which the local community can be proud of,” he said.
“Saturday evening’s tragedy indicates just how badly needed these efforts are.”
Mr Beattie said the death has devastated the local community. “Local people are shocked that something so awful could happen in their community. This is a terrible tragedy for the young girl, her family and friends and the community at large,” he added.
DUP councillor Jonathan Buckley was the latest councillor to express his shock at the weekend’s events.
He said, “It was deeply saddening to learn of Caitlin’s death at the weekend. My deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers go out to her family and friends at this tragic time.
“Portadown and the surrounding area has been left in a state of shock by what has happened. I would urge anyone with information that may help the PSNI with their enquiries to contact them on 101.”