Derry crisis intervention centre must be funded beyond March, says Mark H. Durkan

Mark H. Durkan.
Mark H. Durkan.

Funding must be found to ensure a vital Derry suicide prevention hub survives beyond March, a local MLA has said.

SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan issued the call after the Department for Health and Derry City & Strabane District Council both said the city’s pilot Community Crisis Intervention Service was under review.

“Bringing this badly and sadly needed crisis de-escalation service to Derry, was hard-won and it must be protected at all costs.

“The initiative led by charity Extern NI, has given invaluable support and been a life-line for many over the last year.

“The dedication of staff and volunteers has been commendable; their commitment must be matched by adequate funding so they can continue providing this crucial service not only within the coming year but into the future,” said the SDLP health spokesman.

Mr. Durkan recently wrote to the DoH Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly and asked him to clarify if he will be in a position to allocate funding to the hub “going forward”.

Mr. Pengelly replied that DoH had contributed funding in 2018/19 but was not asked to contribute to costs this year.

“Decisions on the continuation of the current service reside with DC&SDC who lead this project. The service commenced operation in January 2019 and is being piloted until March 2020.

"I understand it will be evaluated before a decision is made on whether or not it should continue,” wrote the DoH chief.

DC&SDC said the service evaluation will be completed shortly, after which fresh funding bids are likely to follow.

A DC&SDC spokesperson said the Council’s Health & Community Committee recently considered an interim evaluation of the service - currently being undertaken by the University of Ulster - and plans, subject to partner commitment, to extend the service until March 2020.

The evaluation is due to complete shortly and will “determine the benefits and impact of the service along with the needs and resources required for future sustainability”, the Council said.

DoH and existing partners will be updated on the evaluation outcomes in due course and this will inform the development of funding bids to ensure a continued service within the Council area, the spokesperson added.

Mr. Pengelly wrote: “The Department, Public Health Agency and Health & Social Care Board will also wish to view the final project evaluation, once available, to inform decision-making around future crisis de-escalation services in general.

“The Department has committed to an action within ‘Protect Life 2’ [NI’s core mental health and suicide prevention published in September] to provide timely,accessible de-escalation services for those in emotional crisis or despair. This and a range of other actions within the strategy will be dependent upon additional funding being made available.”

Mr. Durkan said: “I acknowledge that whilst this project is council-led, it is lamentable that it has fallen on the head of the council to lead and fund a project for one of the biggest health problems facing this city.

“The department have however contributed to the funding and had previously agreed to my proposal to redirect £20,000 earmarked for Belfast to the Crisis Intervention Service in Derry.”

Mr. Durkan said funding needed to be found to keep the service going.

“With this in mind, the department must think creatively to find or reallocate funds which would otherwise not have been utilised.”

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