DOJ Drug addiction counselling funding must be restored - McKay
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has described the decision by the Justice Minister David Ford to cut funding for Railway Street Addiction Services in Ballymena as 'short-sighted' and 'dangerous'. He has requested a meeting with the Minister and will raise the matter at the Assembly today.
Daithí McKay said
"This service was established 14 years ago and since then it has had a proven track record in getting drug users 'clean', preventing drug-related crime and offering support for those who are at risk of disease, overdose and indeed suicide.
"In 2013 a review of priority offenders by Ballymena PSNI found a 74% reduction in offending compared to the previous year due to Railway Street interventions. They have built up strong effective partnerships with the police service and the prison service and this has resulted in positive outcomes for this community and savings for the Justice system.
"That is why this decision is so short sighted. The Minister is cutting £360,000, thats 100% of the DOJ funding to this service. It has taken staff and many other statutory agencies by surprise given the fact that this service has been such a success.
"It has helped reduce the risk of suicide and overdose amongst people who have been caught in the downward spiral of drug use. It has helped reduce drug related crime and prison admissions by making effective interventions in co-operation with other agencies.
"The Minister needs to go back to the drawing board as this decision is based on a false economy. The amount that his department contributes to this is minimal compared to the costs they would have no option but to meet if the service were not there. I have requested to meet the Minister and will be raising this at the Assembly today as the implementation of this decision will come at a great cost to many families living in the Northern Trust area."
N.B. The Department of Health contributes £180,000 to this service. DOJ contributes £360,000. The Department of Health is maintaining its contribution.