Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay has presented the Assembly with a petition of over 2000 signatures calling on Justice Minister David Ford to reconsider his decision to cut funding to Railway Street Addiction Centre in Ballymena.
Mr. McKay accused the Minister of implementing a ‘callous cut’.
“We are not talking about a 5%, 10% or 20% cut. David Ford unilaterally imposed a 100% cut in Department of Justice funding to a service which has had a proven impact on crime prevention in the Ballymena area.
“This is a service designed to prevent drug addiction and alleviate human misery,” said Mr. McKay.
He contended that by reducing drug dependency and, by extension, drug related crime, the service actually helps to reduce spending on this type of crime prevention.
He continued: “Railway Street has consistently demonstrated that given access to proper treatment, drug related crime falls and health outcomes improve. The closure will not be without severe consequences for patients, families, criminal justice agencies, and other health and social care professionals who will all struggle to cope with the void that will be created.
“It is oddly perverse decision considering the negative impact that it could have in other areas of Justice Department spending. Therefore I believe that David Ford is indulging in false economics.
“This is a non-judgemental service that responds to members of the public who walk in off the street.
“Once the Justice Minister’s cuts take effect this service will be unsustainable and those unfortunate to have a drug dependency will be left without access to the dedicated personnel who run the Railway Street Centre.
“The uncaring decision to withdraw funding for this essential service was taken with no consultation with service users. To offer hope – by bedding it in over 14 years and then walk away is disgraceful. This is the removal of a lifesaving service to people who are too often treated as the undeserving in society.
“While I welcome the fact that some funding has been extended to the end of the financial year I feel – and the number of signatures collected on the petition shows I am not alone - that this service needs to be protected in the long-term.
“I urge the Justice Minister to listen to what the families, the victims of drug use and communities are saying. This is a small amount of money that makes a massive difference to the lives of addicts and the community.”