Suicide prevention funds for olim allegedly ‘not transferred’ to NGOs

Director of suicide prevention NGO says budget cut in half by Health Ministry

David Bitan in Knesset on February 5, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
David Bitan in Knesset on February 5, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A Likud MK has alleged that the Health Ministry has failed to transfer some NIS 17 million allocated by the Finance Ministry to organizations involved in combating suicide among new immigrants.
MK David Bitan, chairman of the Knesset Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, asserted during a committee session on Tuesday that the Finance Ministry had transferred the money to the Health Ministry but without directly conditioning its use for combating suicide.
Instead, said Bitan, the Health Ministry used the money for other purposes, and said that the Finance Ministry should take the money back.
A Finance Ministry representative present at the session said the Treasury had indeed set aside NIS 17 million for organizations working to prevent suicide, but said that the Health Ministry had not used all of the funds.
However, a Health Ministry official insisted that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein had allocated NIS 6 million to the Education Ministry for combating suicide, and another NIS 9.5 million for emergency hotlines for suicide prevention.
It was unclear whether these funds were intended for the immigrant community however.
David Koren, the director of the Eran organization for suicide prevention noted that the Health Ministry had halved the budget it allocates to his organization, from NIS 2.7 million annually to NIS 1.3 million.
The Health Ministry representative responded that this was due to general cuts across all ministries to NGO budgets of 30 percent, although that it would not account for the 50% cut to Eran’s budget.
Bitan expressed anger and said that budget cuts to NGOS, including those dealing with suicide prevention, was unreasonable when budgets of other government departments and programs were being increased.
“The NGOs are doing [suicide prevention] work voluntarily instead of you and in return, you are cutting their budgets,” Bitan demanded of the Health Ministry representative angrily, calling the situation “a disgrace.”
He said he would demand the Health Ministry give a full account of the NIS 17 million allocated by the Finance Ministry.
The Diaspora Affairs Ministry is now finalizing a program for suicide prevention which was presented to the committee, including a telephone hotline with counselors who can speak English, French, Russian, Spanish and Amharic. The program will receive NIS 2.2 million from the Absorption Ministry.