The Department of Health has said that a funding decision for a new addiction treatment centre in Derry lies with the First and Deputy First Ministers.
Last week the Derry News reported that Northlands Addiction Treatment Centre has an expanding waiting list which has been exacerbated by its forced closure during the Coronavirus pandemic.
It now has to run at 50% capacity while adhering to social distancing guidelines which has compounded their problems.
Head of Treatment at Northlands, Tommy Canning, said the current situation underscores the need for a new facility.
For many years a move to a site close to the Foyle Hospice has been mooted.
In the New Decade, New Approach agreement the British government committed itself to provide ‘additional funding to support the Derry addiction centre’ – in reference to Northlands.
Mr Canning said both governments must make good on that promise.
In a statement to the Derry News, a UK Government spokesperson said it has honoured commitments as set out in the New Decade, New Approach document.
He added that it has ‘already provided £553m’ in funding to the Northern Ireland Executive as part of the agreement.
It is for the Northern Ireland Executive to set its priorities for spending on health and it will be for the Executive, working through a Joint Board, to fund the devolved projects and initiatives referenced in the New Decade document.
Meanwhile, a Department of Health spokesperson said Minister Robin Swann is aware of the valuable work that Northlands undertakes in providing support to some of the country’s ‘most vulnerable citizens’.
It is keen, he explained, to meet with organisations involved in the substance misuse and mental health fields.
He continued: “Under the heading ‘Addressing Northern Ireland's unique circumstances’ within ‘New Decade, New Approach’, the UK Government committed to making funding available for a number of areas, which could include additional funding to support the Derry/Londonderry addiction centre.
“The Minister understands that the specific projects this funding will support are to be determined by the joint board which will include the Secretary of State and the First and deputy First Ministers.”
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan said the British Government’s promises, in the New Decade New Approach, ‘rings hollow’ as the funding for additional projects remains ‘unfulfilled’ and this is ‘unacceptable’.
“Northlands addiction centre provides a vital lifeline and means of supporting individuals, families and communities to start to recover from addictions, not only for Derry city but for the surrounding area.
“The Health Minister has responsibility for the provision of addictions services. Recently Sinn Féin secured cross party support for an amendment calling on the Minister of Health to bring forward a detailed plan for mental health and addiction as a result of COVID-19.
“The Minister of Health published a Mental Health Action plan in May, I was deeply disappointed to see that there was no mention of addictions or addictions services within the document.
“It is vital that the Department of Health commissions a needs analysis to identify the level of need for services. I am convinced the need is there and it is up to the minister of Health to invest in addiction services, especially in Northlands,” she concluded.
Mr Eastwood has said: “During the negotiations of the New Decade, New Approach I brought the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, to the Northlands Centre. From there, the commitment to additional funding to support the Derry addiction centre was put in the New Decade, New Approach agreement.
“It is now the responsibility of the Executive to release funding to enable the increase capacity of the number of treatments, increase capacity for both residential rehabilitation treatment and non-residential counselling, increase scope in support for families whose loved ones are suffering from addiction and increase the provision of information available about services.”
“This pandemic has had a detrimental effect on everyone, but especially on those who face addiction. Many of whom have spent the last few months at home, suffering alone. The Executive must act straight away to commence this project, liaise with the relevant bodies and stakeholders and release the funds for the addiction centre to help those in need.”
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