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Suicide victim's uncle hits out as funding for crisis service is ended

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Challenge: Stephen Twells

Challenge: Stephen Twells

Challenge: Stephen Twells

The uncle of a young man, whose suicide in 2014 sparked a campaign for a crisis intervention service in Londonderry, has hit out at the Department of Health for refusing to further fund the service.

The recovery of Andrew Quigley's body from the river by Foyle Search and Rescue (FS&R) after a six-week search prompted calls for a crisis intervention service in Derry.

A pilot scheme operated by Extern has been in operation for the past 18 months, during which time over 250 vulnerable people have been helped.

Funding for the scheme is due to run out at the end of this month and Derry City and Strabane Council received confirmation this week that the Department of Health will not provide any further funding

The 20-year-old's uncle Dee Quigley said other families will suffer their loss if the service isn't saved.

He said: "Having a crisis centre has no doubt saved lives of our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends and neighbours, but not having it will sadly run the risk of more families being devastated by the sudden loss of a loved one.

"I hope and pray that this decision will be overturned.

"The very fact some members of our community end up needing a intervention by a crisis team just shows you the lack of investment into mental health services in Derry.

"Having the crisis service within our community has shone a very bright light into the lives of people who only see the darkness at that point."

Chairman of Foyle, Search and Rescue Stephen Twells described the department's decision as "an absolute disgrace".

He challenged all government ministers to come to Derry and spend a weekend on patrol with FS&R volunteers.

Mr Twells said: "The fact that the Department of Health is refusing to meet the cost of the suicide prevention service is an absolute disgrace. The fact that any department within Stormont refuses to help fund this is a disgrace.

"It's not that the Community Crisis Intervention Service (CCIS) is believed to have saved lives in its pilot year - it has saved lives.

"We work very closely with this organisation, signposting those in need to them. They do make a difference."

A spokeswoman for Extern, which runs the service, said: "Extern is now continuing to engage with partners in pursuit of a solution which will enable the service to continue to operate, and to allow us to continue to play our part in supporting those people who need our help the most in times of acute distress."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "It is recognised that the service is not solely a health issue. The department is not in a position to meet the full £215k funding requirement for this service in 2020/21.

"The department has urged the council to convene a multi-agency meeting to discuss potential funding options."

Belfast Telegraph