Campaigners for a full suite of detoxification services for Londonderry say an unprecedented 48,000 people have signed a petition of support, which will be handed to the Health Minister Edwin Poots at Stormont on Monday (June 30).
Newly elected Derry City and Strabane District Councillor Dermot ‘Dee’ Quigley and supporters handed the petition to Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey at the Guildhall on noon on Friday.
Mr Ramsey will present the petition to Mr Poots on Monday.
Mr Quigley, tragically, lost his young nephew, Andrew, aged 19, earlier this year.
Andrew’s body was recovered from the Foyle in February after being reported missing in January.
Councillor Quigley believes Andrew was let down by a lack of support services for drugs users needing a detox facility in the city.
Speaking to the Sentinel on Friday he said: “The campaign sofar has culminated here in the handing over of a petition of roughly, around 50,000 signatures and basically what we want to do with those signatures is let Stormont see the amount of support we have out there in the Derry community and the North West community overall and just to show the Ministers and the Ministers who have made the decision not to bring a detox centre to the North West, how important this actually is for the people on the ground.
“If you need detox, you are saying that, you are in crisis, so I’d be saying this issue needs reevaluated again by Stormont.”
He says a detox centre is badly needed.
“There’s definitely proven need in the city. The statistics are there that will show you that. The Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) board came out and said they can provide the services, they just need the funding and the resources.
“If they are capable of bringing these resources to Omagh, then the same resources could have been offered to Derry.”
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said: “Clearly, I’ve been involved in the campaign for a detoxification centre for Derry for a number of years and during the recent consultation for the Health Department I was the only politician...from the North West that made a submission, a formal submission on our position, in terms of the requirements to have a detox centre in Derry.”
Mr Ramsey claims the expansion of detox beds in Omagh is welcome but will not serve as an acceptable replacement for a centre in Londonderry.
“I’ve spoken to parents who say, Omagh is not accessible to them,” said Mr Ramsey. “We’re back to the situation: People need access to detoxification, when they are at crisis point, with people 24/7 [who can provide the service].”
He added: “As a founder member of the Foyle Haven, the drop-in centre for alcoholics, there’s a point in time when someone wants to go off alcohol.
“It’s that few hours and maybe that single day, if they have that opportunity to do it.
“Too often people trying to go cold turkey or trying to become dry they end up taking some seizure or something else.
“The purpose of a detoxification centre is having a medical team on stand-by to provide the necessary medication, to help them with their issues when they’re trying to come off alcohol.
“It’s too important an issue, it’s very emotive, it’s very sensitive, particularly after the loss of life with Andy Quigley, I have to say.
“There was a huge swell of opinion, that in many regards, went viral in a social media sense.
“In presenting this petition on Monday, I can honestly say, there’s never been a petition of this magnitude.
“We’re talking about 50,000 people in this city of Derry, presenting this petition, almost half the population.”