Crisis Centre funding talks still ‘ongoing’

New services are being introduced, the Department of Health has said.
New services are being introduced, the Department of Health has said.

Talks are now taking place to finalise funding details for a Crisis Intervention Service and to secure money for a second project to tackle suicide in Derry, it has been confirmed.

It is now more than two years since the Crisis Intervention Drop-In Project was proposed to help provide emergency assistance for people at immediate risk of suicide and self-harm.

Health chief Richard Pengelly

Health chief Richard Pengelly

It emerged back in June that the final £30,000 of the £130,000 needed to run the pilot 12-month service had at last been pledged “in principal,” by a health body and Derry & Strabane District Council at the time said it was preparing to appoint a provider to run the service.

Among those who have pledged financial support for the project are Foyle Search & Rescue, the council, the Health & Social Care Board and the Western Trust.

A council spokesperson said it was now working closely with its partners “to finalise details of the funding package required to finance the Crisis Intervention Service and will be providing an update to members of the Health and Communities Committee in the Autumn.”

There have been renewed calls for action following a sharp rise in the number of tragic deaths and near tragedies in the city recently.

The Foyle Reeds proposed installation for the Foyle Bridge.

The Foyle Reeds proposed installation for the Foyle Bridge.

The Department for Health yesterday said funding was now being sought to implement the Our Future Foyle project, which includes plans for an art installation along the Foyle Bridge that would also double as a safety barrier.

A spokesperson for the department said that in addition to suicide prevention services already in operation in Derry, preparatory work is now also underway on a number of new initiatives to be rolled out locally.

These new projects include the non-clinical “drop in” crisis de-escalation facility in Derry; the Our Future Foyle project; the piloting of ‘suicide down to zero’ approach in Western Trust and elsewhere and also embedding mental health staff within hospital emergency departments.

The Department of Health has said that the ‘Our Future Foyle’ project is a key focus in addressing suicide risk in the North West.

A Departmental spokesman said: “Suicide prevention remains a priority for the Department and work has continued in terms of maintaining existing suicide prevention services under the Protect Life and in drafting of the new Protect Life 2 strategy.

“A broad range of suicide prevention services are provided to those living in the Foyle area. These include: self-harm intervention programmes; the mental health crisis care team; counselling services; suicide de-escalation services; bereavement support and training for community gatekeepers.”

The spokesman added that preparatory work is also underway on a number of new suicide prevention initiatives. “This includes support for establishing a non-clinical “drop in” crisis de-escalation facility in Derry; the piloting of “suicide down to zero” approach in all Trusts including the Western Trust; and embedding mental health staff within hospital emergency departments,” he said.

“The Implementation of the ‘Our Future Foyle’ project is a key focus for the Department of Health in terms of addressing suicide risk in the area. Much of the design element has now been completed and it is ready to move to implementation, subject to available funding.

“This project is an innovative collaboration between the Royal College of Arts, PHA, government departments, public sector organisations and the voluntary and community sector. Work is underway to identify potential sources of funding for the project.”

Both Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion - who first proposed funding for a Crisis Intervention Service during her time as a councillor and Foyle SDLP MLA, Mark H. Durkan, who has called for a Suicide Prevention Task Force to be set-up, have welcomed the Our Future Foyle initiative.

In terms of intervention for those currently experiencing emotional crisis in the Foyle area, the Department said structures exist through the Western Protect Life Implementation Group and through activation of the area’s emergency community response plan for responding to suicide attempts.

“The latter involves interagency protocols developed by the Public Health Agency and endorsed by other key partners such as Derry City and Strabane District Council, Foyle Search & Rescue, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and City Centre Initiative,” the Department spokesperson added.

*The Lifeline helpline can be contacted for free on 0808 808 8000 in confidence.

*The Samaritans can be contacted on 02871 265511 or Freephone 116 123 in confidence.

*Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 for any issue or by visiting www.childline.org.uk in confidence.