Mental Health Commission seeks power to run community residences

Call prompted by publication of report critical of Roscommon mental health services

John Saunders: “These residences are not regulated and yet they provide care to a large number of vulnerable people with mental illness.” Photograph: Alan Betson

John Saunders: “These residences are not regulated and yet they provide care to a large number of vulnerable people with mental illness.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Mental Health Commission has again called on the Government to give it powers to regulate community-based care services where an increasing number of patients are being accommodated.

The commission is charged with monitoring standards in approved mental health centres, most of which are large institutions. However, its remit does not run to community residences.

The call is prompted by the publication last week of a highly critical report into Roscommon mental health services. The report, commissioned by the HSE after allegations of improper sexual contacts at a facility, found systematic failings in reporting incidents, as well as a culture of blame and negativity.

The commission says it continues to be concerned about 24-hour staffed community residences nationally, which are not regulated. It has the authority to inspect them, but does not have enforcement powers and cannot close facilities if necessary.

“These community residences have become too large by accommodating too many people, creating a number of ‘mini-institutions’,” said commission chairman John Saunders.

“Very often these facilities have poor physical infrastructure and are institutional in nature. There are also concerns relating to service provision and a lack of patient-centred thinking.

Vulnerable people

“These residences are not regulated and yet they provide care to a large number of vulnerable people with mental illness. The commission is calling on the Government to prioritise regulation in this area by giving it regulatory and enforcement powers.”

The commission says its officials first raised their concerns over mental health services in Roscommon in June 2015, and as a result the HSE agreed to have a review carried out.

A review of the Mental Health Act 2001, published in the same year, recommended the commission’s powers be extended to include all mental health services. The Department of Health has said work to amend the Act as recommended is under way.