Protest over mental health 'cuts'

Fri, Sep 7, 2012, 01:00

Mental health campaigners protested today at Government buildings in Dublin over reports that the Government plans to use the €35 million promised for community mental health services to offset the deficit in the HSE.

Despite assurances from Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch that the majority of promised posts for community health services would be in place by the end of the year, more than 50 campaigners gathered to say they were concerned about delays and uncertainty surrounding the mental health budget.

In Budget 2012, the Government committed to investing €35 million in the development of community based mental health services including 370 staff for adult child and adolescent community mental health teams, 34 staff for suicide prevention and ten staff for primary health care counselling services.

Advocacy group Mental Health Reform said the investment was part of an agreed transition from the old model of institutional hospital based care towards holistic, community based care outlined in Government’s own mental health strategy.

“We’re protesting about the risk to the €35 million that has been designated for community mental health care services.” the organisation’s director Orla Barry said.

“This is not new money for mental health services. Even with the proposed €35 million, the mental health budget still took a cut of 1 per cent in 2012. We are seen as easy targets. The transition is about reducing the reliance on hospital beds which are ferociously expensive. Some people may need to be in hospital but many can get help in their own homes and communities.”

Ms Barry called on the Government to keep their promise and deliver the allocated services for 2012.

Counselling psychologist Eoin O’Shea said the proposed cutbacks were “a disgrace in two different ways”.

“There is an untold human cost,” he said. “National and international studies prove the fiscal cost in the medium term. Cutbacks to mental health services result in economic deficits – absenteeism from work and increased pressure on physical health services and the fallout to their family members.”