New funding secures future of Derry’s vital crisis intervention service

A life-saving mental health and suicide prevention project run by Extern in the North West is set to continue for up to another three years thanks to a funding injection of almost £500k announced by Health Minister Robin Swann this week.

By Brendan McDaid
Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 12:27 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 5:47 pm
2020: Robin Swann MLA, Minister of Health, on the right, pictured with Joe Thompson, Project Co-ordinator CCIS, then Mayor Colr. Brian Tierney , and Sharon Hill, Project Manager CCIS, during a visit to Extern. DER2025GS - 011
2020: Robin Swann MLA, Minister of Health, on the right, pictured with Joe Thompson, Project Co-ordinator CCIS, then Mayor Colr. Brian Tierney , and Sharon Hill, Project Manager CCIS, during a visit to Extern. DER2025GS - 011

Among the other organisations across NI to receive their share of the £8.7m new mental health funding for their life-saving work are the Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum in Derry who will receive £495,991.

Meanwhile the Roe Valley Residents Association have been awarded £291,500, Aware NI - £142,300, Victim Support NI - £185,100 and Mind Your Mate and Yourself (MYMY) - £142,003.

Based in Derry, the Community Crisis Intervention Service (CCIS) offers support to individuals who are observed to be in distress and potentially vulnerable, and who may be at risk of suicidal behaviour. To date the project has recorded a total of 918 interventions with people at risk from suicide and self-harm.

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Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Padraig Delargey with deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

Launched as a pilot project in 2019, CCIS operates every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, and offers a non-clinical, community response to individuals experiencing social, emotional or situational crisis.

For the past two years the project has been repeatedly threatened with closure due to a lack of long-term funding.

This new vital funding boost will enable the project to continue this core work across weekends, as well as to develop an expanded programme of wraparound care for individuals engaged with the service. The project will also assist those it has supported to ‘step down’ into accessible counselling and complementary therapy services in the local community, as well as promoting wellbeing and good mental health throughout the region.

Extern is one of a total of 30 projects which have received funding through the allocation of the first tranche of grants from the Mental Health Support Fund, part of a £24m package of funding made available by the Department of Health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support carers, cancer charities and mental health organisations. The Fund is being administered and managed by the Community Foundation NI on behalf of the Department.

Danny McQuillan, interim CEO of Extern, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this wonderful news which builds upon the fantastic work which has been carried out by the CCIS project in the North-West over the past three years. Since its launch, CCIS has become an impactful and important means of helping reduce suicidal behaviour and deaths by suicide in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

“Earlier this year, the Health Minister very kindly provided short-term extension funding to keep CCIS going, so this latest announcement from his Department of such a generous package of support means we can continue saving lives, and deliver an expanded and enhanced service to more and more people in this area.

“This funding also ensures that the people of Derry-Londonderry will continue to have a venue where they can receive unconditional support at times of emotional crisis.”

Mr McQuillan added: “We would like to acknowledge the valued support and input of our previous multiagency and community inclusive project steering group and Derry and Strabane Council over the last three years, and the support we have received from a range of political parties and elected representatives at times when funding was difficult to secure.

“We also look forward to our continued close working relationship with Foyle Search and Rescue, PSNI and Community Mental Health Teams around the city, who have supported the project over the previous years and continue to be valued partners moving forward.”

Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said: “I welcome this much needed investment for this hard-won service in the heart of our city. The SDLP were integral in setting up this service and have constantly fought to save it. Throughout its existence this service has had to struggle for every penny it gets and I’ve no doubt that confirmation of three years funding will come as a huge relief to staff and to many people in our city.

“Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed evidence of the profound need for a crisis intervention service in Derry. This service was hard won by citizens here who recognised the need for it and have fought to keep its doors open ever since. It will continue to play a critical role in the months ahead during the Covid-19 recovery period.

“It goes without saying, the volunteers and staff at Extern have carried out sterling work to date, particularly during such a difficult period and in the face of uncertainty. They continue to have my utmost respect and admiration.”

Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy welcomed an £8.7 million boost for mental health services, charities projects across the north.

As part of this funding boost, local organisation the Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum will also receive almost £500,000.

The Foyle MLA said: “I welcome this £8.7 million of extra funding to support mental health charities, organisations and projects across the north.

“The support provided to community groups and organisations through the mental health support fund has the potential to make a real difference to lives and communities, including to people living in Derry.

“The negative impact of the pandemic continues to be felt by so many people and it’s absolutely vital that people are able to access support when they need it.

“This extra funding is a welcome boost to many communities to provide much-needed counselling, peer support and trauma support services.

“Long-term investment is needed in supporting sustainable community services and statutory services, especially in expanding access to vital services.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney added: “It’s great to see the CCIS getting this funding. This is a vital service which provides support to so many people across our city. I hope this funding provides some security and confidence for the staff and volunteers who have had to fight continuously to ensure they had the resources to continue supporting people.

“We will, as always, work to ensure that there is long-term funding in place and support the CCIS to grow from strength to strength and help the people of this city.”

**Anyone in distress can contact Lifeline on 08088088000, Samaritans on 116123 or the Derry-based Community Crisis Intervention Service on 02871262300.