Plans to divert mental health funds criticised by psychiatrists

Cuts ‘must be resisted as scandalous and discriminatory,’ says College of Psychiatrists

Kathleen Lynch is resisting any raid on the funds available to her for mental health while she serves in the current caretaker administration. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Kathleen Lynch is resisting any raid on the funds available to her for mental health while she serves in the current caretaker administration. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The College of Psychiatrists has expressed dismay at plans to divert money supposedly ring-fenced for mental health to other areas.

The Green Party has also attacked the proposal to re-allocate more than one-third of reserved funds to more politically sensitive areas of the health service.

Kathleen Lynch, who has ministerial responsibility for mental health, is resisting any raid on the funds available to her while she serves in the current caretaker administration.

As reported in The Irish Times, she has told the Department of Health there are “no circumstances where I could agree to one-third of my budget for developments in mental health being transferred to another service for 2016”.

The College of Psychiatrists said the percentage of the Irish health budget dedicated to mental health services already lags behind that of similar democracies.

It expressed support for Minister Lynch in her opposition to any decrease in funding and called for the immediate application of existing funds to key areas.

“Talk of dispersion of funds from Mental Health to other areas reflects an ambivalent attitude to mental illness by some decision makers” said Dr John Hillery, Director of Communication and Public Education at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland.

“This must be resisted as scandalous and discriminatory.”

Green party deputy leader Catherine Martin said any reduction would have serious consequences down the line.

“It is unacceptable that funding for essential services in mental health is under threat due to mismanagement in other areas, just to relieve political pressure over the serious issues facing the health service.

“Mental health services, which are already under pressure, are too important to thousands of people to have any reduction in budget.”

Mental health was an “easy target” for cuts because the problems were less visible than those in hospital emergency departments, she said.