Staff mental health services, State told
Campaigners have called on the Government to properly staff services for young people with mental health difficulties to reduce waiting lists.
Children and adolescents needed quick access to help to prevent difficulties getting worse, said Colm O’Gorman, chairman of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition.
There were 2,056 children on waiting lists for Health Service Executive appointments at the end of last September and such delays also reduced the chances of children overcoming their difficulties, he added.
“Only 63 child and adolescent mental health teams are in place, instead of the recommended 107, and of those that do exist, their staffing levels are less than two-thirds of what they should be,” Mr O’Gorman said. He urged the services to focus on the problem of 16- to 17-year-olds who until recently were treated by adult services and now faced problems getting appointments with the child services.
It was also important that the child and adolescent services linked up with the new child and family support agency so children with various problems were not “bounced from service to service”, said Catherine Joyce, head of advocacy at Barnardos.
Joan Freeman, chief executive of Pieta House, which provides support to people at risk of suicide, said there needed to be better community-based services so they did not have to access HSE mental health inpatient and outpatient services. The cuts to school guidance counsellors, announced in the budget in December 2011, should be reversed as this was a crucial service for young people with problems, said Jackie O’Callaghan, of the National Parents’ Council. “It was the one safe haven in schools where students could go without having to identify themselves as being someone with a problem,” she said.
Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said services were under strain since 1,500 nurses had left. He said the Government had to ensure the €35 million new funds it had committed to the services would be spent.
Robert Troy, Fianna Fáil spokesman on children, also urged that the money be spent. “They have made a commitment for three years to spend the money and my fear is that the funds are now gone,” he said.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Féin spokesman on children, said deficiencies in mental health services for young people were “austerity in action”.