The prospective closure of a Jerusalem drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for troubled youth due to government budgetary constraints has resulted in outrage among parents of patients, as well as politicians, for the second time in less than four years.
The facility in question, Lifta Detoxification Center, a 23-year-old center located near the western entrance to the city in the abandoned Arab village of Lifta, treats people between the ages of 14 and 21.
However, it has long been in a chronic state of disrepair due to anemic funding.
In 2011, the facility, known by its Hebrew name “Magal,” narrowly averted being shut down due to a lack of compliance stemming from its small size and budget shortfall. It was kept in operation following pointed appeals by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to the Health Ministry.
“In order for [Lifta] to continue in its important and sacred work, the municipality will do everything in its power to help the organization stand by the defined criteria of the Health Ministry to continue operating,” Barkat said at the time.
Nonetheless, due to a government funding shortfall of some NIS 500,000, compounded by its ongoing inability to meet the ministry’s minimum standards of operation, Lifta may not be able to keep its doors open for much longer.
While Dr. Paula Roshka, the ministry’s addictions department director, has requested to extend the center’s contract, during a Knesset meeting earlier this week the municipality announced that it is suggesting closing Lifta and moving patients to more compliant and stable facilities.
The municipality’s about-face has left some of the capital’s political representatives and parents angered.
“What suddenly happened to the mayor of Jerusalem?” asked MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), noting that Barkat saved it once, and repeated his pledge to keep Lifta open during last year’s reelection campaign.
“This place saved my son’s life,” said a woman identified as Deborah. “He was 15, an outstanding student and from a good home, but due to an emotional crisis ended up in the streets. Today he is 17, perfectly normal and getting ready to join the army – all thanks to Lifta.”
Although a formal date has not been announced, the Health Ministry and the municipality are scheduled to further discuss Lifta’s fate before making a final decision.