Barkat appeals to keep open detox center in Lifta

Jerusalem mayor pleads to health minister for continued operation of Lifta Detoxification Center for teenagers in danger of closing.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
October 10, 2011 02:27
2 minute read.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat sent a letter to Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Sunday to plead for the continued operation of the Lifta Detoxification Center, a Jerusalem institution for teenagers dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in Jerusalem that is in danger of closing at the end of the month.

The Health Ministry has threatened to close the 20- year-old center after finding that its physical building was in a state of disrepair. The detox center, known by its Hebrew initials of Magal, is tucked away in the abandoned Arab village of Lifta, among wildly-blooming cacti and ancient stone buildings.

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One of Magal’s founders, Hela Yaniv, told The Jerusalem Post that the Health Ministry didn’t even give the organization a chance to try to work on issues with them.

Last week, Barkat joined TV reality series MasterChef winner Avi Levy, a Jerusalem native who volunteers at Magal, to cook Levy’s “meatball surprises” in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the organization. Levy served time in jail for drugrelated charges and has been open about his own struggles with drug abuse on the cooking show. He serves as a mentor at the center.

Barkat praised the organization for helping teenagers return to a “normal and balanced life” and added that what the city needed was more beds for teenagers dealing with substance abuse, not fewer.

“In order for the organization 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 wrote in his letter.

“The deputy minister of health is well aware of the important and blessed work of Magal,” said ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron- Greenboim. “The Health Ministry is well aware of the importance of the continued operation needed for rehabilitating the youth.”

However, the physical conditions of the center were not satisfactory, and the ministry awarded the tender for the center’s operation to another organization that runs a smaller adolescent substance abuse treatment agency in the center of the country, she added.

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Barkat stressed in his letter he would help the organization move to a new location if needed, something Yaniv hopes will not happen, as the center has grown attached to its quiet and green location.

An appeal to the ministry’s decision is currently under consideration. If the appeal is denied, the center will close on October 31.

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