Belfast Telegraph

Health Minister set to visit at-risk addiction centre

By Donna Deeney

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill has agreed to visit an addiction treatment centre under threat of closure because of a funding shortage.

It follows representations made by her party colleague, local MLA Raymond McCartney - one of a number of politicians who attended a meeting at which Northlands founder and director Denis Bradley warned the centre would close within a year if a £200,000 funding gap is not plugged.

Initially, the Health and Social Care Board said it would make up the shortfall, before later informing the centre that would not be possible.

Mr McCartney said he had raised fears about Northlands' future with Ms O'Neill.

"I attended the public meeting to listen to the concerns of Northlands over its future and I share those concerns," he added.

"I contacted my party colleague and Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and raised those concerns directly with her. She gave a commitment to come to Derry and meet with Northlands to discuss those concerns."

Also at the public meeting was Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who said he was struck by the number of passionate and personal testimonies given by people who had been helped by Northlands.

"I was very moved by the very personal and powerful testimonies I heard from people attending the meeting who had used the services of Northlands and who spoke about the care and treatment this centre provides," Mr Durkan explained.

"I will be tabling a motion in the Assembly about addiction services and the need for better accessibility.

"In the short-term, I was pleased that all parties represented at the meeting, including ourselves and Sinn Fein, agreed to work together to persuade the minister and the department of the importance of addressing the funding crisis facing this vital centre."

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said that rather than reducing funding for Northlands, there was a case for increasing it.

He added: "Northlands is a very important facility that so many have benefited from.

"The last thing we need in this area is a reduction in services. Regardless of who the Health Minister is, they need to work to protect the services that exist for people with addictions."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph