Residents to plea with Taoiseach over mental health facility closure

The HSE said the Owenacurra centre in Midleton, Cork is ’not fit for purpose’

Residents of a mental health facility in Co Cork will make an appeal to Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Friday to keep the premises open.

Last summer, the HSE announced the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton, Co Cork, would close due to the building being "not fit for purpose".

It is the only long-stay residential and respite adult mental health facility in east Cork, and families of residents are concerned about where they will be moved following its closure.

It was initially due to close on October 31st, but a temporary stay was put in place. Residents and local politicians have campaigned for the closure order to be reversed.

The Oireachtas Health Committee also called on Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler to reverse the HSE decision.

Residents will on Friday deliver a letter to the Taoiseach’s constituency office, which states the decision to close the centre has been “devastating” for them.

“The reasons given for closure have been examined by many politicians and the decision is not justified. We know that mental health staff do not want Owenacurra to close,” the letter states.

“We are asking you to reverse the decision to close the Owenacurra Centre. We have been following the campaign to keep it open. The full restoration of the respite service is also essential to keep people from serious depression.”

According to the letter, some of the residents have lived in the centre for 30 years, and it is their home.

“All of us have been through extremely difficult times in life due to mental illness. Mental illness is destructive – it destroys careers, ruins families, causes depression and often ends in suicide,” the letter says.

“We are often shunned by society because, in some quarters, mental illness is seen as shameful. Unlike a physical illness, mental illness can be described as ‘a silent cross’.”

However, the residents say Owenacurra is a “unique centre”.

“It provides us with a safe place where our mental health, and not our illness, is prioritised. It gives us hope because we are surrounded by people with similar experiences. Mental illness steals away human companionship so people who are not well are all alone. Owenacurra completely reverses that,” they said.

The HSE announced the closure after its own building experts warned that the centre, which was constructed in the 1970s, was in very poor condition with major defects.

The executive had previously planned to refurbish the building, but as work progressed on those plans "it became clear" the refurbishment would not be enough to bring the building to the standard required by the Mental Health Commission.