Funding of £200,000 for substance use and mental health project

Date published: 09 July 2024

The Health Minister has announced £200,000 funding for a project aimed at helping those experiencing substance use and/or mental health difficulties.

Health Minister Mike Nesbitt pictured with Gary Rutherford with decorative background

Minister Mike Nesbitt made the announcement on Tuesday during a visit to ARC Fitness, a community based not-for-profit addiction recovery organisation based in Derry/Londonderry.

With support from the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency (PHA) will provide the funding to ARC Fitness to enable the design, implementation and evaluation of the prevention, early intervention and recovery project.

Minister Nesbitt said:

“Recovery is a key focus within Preventing Harm, Empowering Recovery, the NI Executive’s 10-year substance use strategy. One of the strategy’s five outcomes is that people are empowered and supported on their recovery journey by addressing stigma, reducing barriers to seeking treatment, and by supporting the development of recovery communities.

“The work at ARC Fitness highlights the role that physical activity and fitness can play in supporting people on their own recovery journey. That is why I am delighted to be able to announce that, with the support of my Department, the PHA will provide this funding for such an innovative project. I am confident it will meet the needs of individuals, families and communities impacted by complex traumas and vulnerabilities in a way that fosters compassion and hope.”

Welcoming the funding, Gary Rutherford, ARC Fitness founder, said:

"We are delighted with this news today from the Minister. With heartfelt gratitude, we want to thank the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency for their generous funding towards our much-needed and lifesaving service. 

“This support will empower us to continue on our mission of promoting health, wellbeing and hope, making a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve."

Aidan Dawson, PHA Chief Executive, said:

“Through effective community collaboration, this pilot project aims to open a pathway of prevention, early intervention, and recovery within a local setting to help address substance use and mental health challenges for those at greatest risk.

“Mental health and substance use issues are sadly all too common and can affect any individual and their friends and families, as well as local communities. Having an effective network of community, voluntary and statutory groups working within local communities can be crucial in helping provide that support to all those who may be impacted. This project shows a shared commitment to addressing these important issues and an emphasis on the significance of prevention and early intervention in building more resilient and healthier communities.” 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption: Health Minister Mike Nesbitt pictured with Gary Rutherford, founder of ARC Fitness.
  1. ARC Fitness was founded by Gary Rutherford, a registered Mental Health Nurse professional and Addiction Nurse Therapist, in 2019 to tackle the issue of growing substance use across the North West area. It provides practical help, support and motivation for people struggling with substance use, by promoting a healthy and sustainable recovery through exercise, and adopting positive lifestyle choices. ARC has supported more than 300 individuals through its specific addiction recovery and family support programme interventions.
  1. The prevention, early intervention and recovery project proposes to provide psychosocial interventions for adults presenting with co-occurring mental health and substance use difficulties, their carers and families, and to work in partnership with community, voluntary and statutory partners.
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