Pieta House, the centre for the prevention of self-harm or suicide, hopes to establish a stand-alone facility in Athlone, possibly within a matter of months.
Initially, an outreach facility was planned for Athlone, linking into the recently opened Pieta House West centre in Tuam, however, on a visit to the town last week, CEO, Joan Freeman, indicated that there has been a change of mind on that issue.
She confirmed that they were viewing a number of possible local premises later that day, with a view to possibly establishing a full Athlone centre within a matter of months if a suitable home is found.
“We would have it as a standalone centre, probably bigger than Tuam, because we are talking about so many counties able to access it. Originally, we did say an outreach but it would be silly, what we would be doing is crippling ourselves prematurely,” Ms Freeman told the Westmeath Independent.
“If we get the centre going nice and early and it is big enough to expand the amount of access, it will happen,” she added.
Ms Freeman hinted that there may be an accessible premises, already established that isn’t being used enough (although she wouldn’t reveal where in Athlone it is) and if they were allowed to improve it, they could be up and running quite quickly.
“As long as there is planning permission we could be talking about literally a matter of months. Tuam took a long time and that was because we were looking at the wrong premises for a year and when we got the right premises it was a shell, but you should see it now. It’s like a chocolate box house.”
“To me, it makes sense to have a proper centre from the beginning. If we don’t use all the rooms then so what, we can always get another charity in to some of the space or look at it,” she said.
It could cost around €200,000 to get a centre improved to their template and would probably cost €300,000 to operate in its first year, she estimated.
“Time means nothing, our biggest aim is to make sure that people travelling to us are not stressed. Our goal is to have a centre within 100 kilometres of every single person in Ireland and we’re getting there, but I think Athlone would be the most intelligent move because of the surrounding counties and would be easily within 100 kilometres of a lot of places including Dublin and Tuam. It’s giving the people of the Midlands that extra choice,” Ms Freeman said.
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