Northlands warns funding ‘disaster’ could spark closure

Northlands Chief Executive Declan Doherty, Board Member Kathleen Harrigan, Company Secretary Mairead Grant and Chairman of the Board Brian Hegarty pictured outside the Council Chamber on Tuesday.
Northlands Chief Executive Declan Doherty, Board Member Kathleen Harrigan, Company Secretary Mairead Grant and Chairman of the Board Brian Hegarty pictured outside the Council Chamber on Tuesday.

Derry’s Northlands centre could be forced to shut down next Spring due to a looming funding crisis, the local Council has been warned.

Representatives from the addiction treatment centre gave a stark warning that they are now running out of time during a presentation before a special sitting of the Council on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking about their current financial position, Northlands Chief Executive Declan Doherty said that key funding from central government was now being phased out.

He said that this was posing a potential “disaster” for the future existence of Northlands and addiction services for people across the north and west.

Northlands opened in Derry in 1975 and has helped thousands of people suffering from addiction problems and their relatives over the past four decades.

At present, the organisation- one of only two such facilities in the north- deals with around 600 people a year facing addiction issues, and 60 of whom will be on Northlands’ in-house residential treatment programme.

Mr Doherty told Councillors they were not asking the Council for money but for any “moral support” they can give.

“It’s a disaster for Northlands this has happened, but it is also a disaster for this part of the world,” he said.

“This is a real blow for the people of this area. People who are severely dependent and their families who are in need of help will not be able to get it after being promised it will be provided.”

As part of the new Northern Ireland Framework for Alcohol and Drugs, Northlands had been asked by the Department of Health to continue to provide residential treatment services for the Western side of the north, taking in the entire Western Trust area and a large part of the Northern Trust.

However staff are now faced with a situation whereby, as a result of its Departmental core funding grant of £168,000 annually being phased out, they may well be forced to shut down in less than a year’s time.

Mr Doherty said Northlands was raising around £30,000 to £50,000 a year through fundraising and donations itself, with other funding from the Northern and Western Trusts, but with their central funding being removed, this was not enough to save the service.

He also said that an agreement had been worked out with the Health and Social Care Board that they would offset the impact of the Departmental funding cuts, but that they were told at a meeting earlier this year that the HSCB now had no money to do so. New Health Minister Michelle O’Neill is currently investigating why this happened. Mr Doherty praised the new Minister for being proactive on the issue.