Drug misuse unit set to close

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A public meeting is being held in The Braid on Thursday, November 20, by Unison in the wake of the withdrawal of funding for a Ballymena based drug misuse service which could see it close early next year.

Unison Northern Health Branch have vowed to support staff of the Railway Street facility and their campaign to push to find alternative finance for it.

The Railway Street facility, which has been independently assessed as a model of best practice in helping injecting drug users across the UK, had been partly financed by the Department of Justice.

However, due to a reduction in its budget, the Department have served notice to the Northern Trust that they intend to withdraw their funding meaning the scheme will close from the end of February 2015.

Justice Minister David Ford said the move was “regrettable but unavoidable”.

He said: “In light of the financial constraints being imposed I have advised the Northern Trust that the DOJ share of the funding for this partnership project between the Justice system and the Health Service would cease on 28 February 2015. I appreciate the efforts of all the staff involved in the project and wish to thank them for all their endeavours with offenders who were seeking to tackle their addictions in order to reduce offending.”

Oscar Donnelly, director of mental health and disability for Northern Trust, said: “Unfortunately the withdrawal of two thirds of the funding for the scheme means that we will not be able to sustain it in its present form. The Trust will need to review the way in which a significantly reduced service can be provided in the future.”

Unison are calling on local councillors and MLA’s to “step in and ensure avenues to try and secure replacement funding have been exhausted”.

Stephanie Greenwood, Unison Northern Health Branch Secretary, said, over the years the unit has had a significant influence in reducing crime and drug use in the local area.