Speaking in the Dáil regarding Mental Health Services

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion and to indicate my support for it. A Vision for Change, launched in 2006, was a template for a community-based, progressive and modern mental health care system. Today, ten years later, there is a crisis in our mental health services arising from, and compounded by, the failure to implement the policy set out in A Vision for Change.

The mental health services in my constituency of Tipperary are a case in point and highlight the malaise in the service currently, both locally and nationally. Despite the best efforts of staff, the service is dysfunctional. The Minister of State’s predecessor, the former Labour Party Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, closed the inpatient unit at South Tipperary General Hospital, St. Michael’s unit, and transferred south Tipperary patients to Kilkenny and north Tipperary patients to Ennis. That was in 2012. She sold that closure on the basis of a promised quid pro quo that we would have a Rolls-Royce community-based service.

Three years later we have the worst of all worlds. We have no inpatient service, a issue to which I will return, and our community services are understaffed, under-resourced and underfunded. Our community-based teams, multidisciplinary teams supposedly, are struggling to provide a safe service. They are deficient in terms of staff numbers across all categories – nursing, medical and paramedical staff members. The promised provision of a crisis house has not materialised. The inpatient service has been transferred to Kilkenny for people from south Tipperary and to Ennis for people from north Tipperary. That means assessments of patients have to take place in a busy overcrowded accident and emergency department with no privacy or confidentiality. The unit in Kilkenny is overcrowded regularly, there is difficulty gaining admission, and if one gains admission, there is the practice of early discharge. The situation is completely unacceptable.

I call on the Minister of State to implement A Vision for Change immediately, including the 24/7 services, to recruit additional nursing, medical and paramedical staff for the multidisciplinary teams and to reopen St. Michael’s unit in Tipperary. I acknowledge the work done by the various voluntary organisations in this area, the community consumer mental health panels, the C-Saw suicide awareness group and others, and thank them for it.