I welcome the opportunity to speak to and support the motion. A Vision for Change, published in 2006, is a template for a community-based progressive and modern mental health system. The policy emphasises provision of a mental health system based on community services and supports provided by community-based multi-disciplinary teams with a significantly reduced need for inpatient services. Ten years later, there is a crisis in our mental health services arising from and compounded by the abject failure to fund, resource, staff and implement the A Vision for Change policy. The Government failed in budget 2017 to address the resource issues needed for mental health services. In July of this year, the Department of Health stated that €35.4 million per year over the next five years was needed to implement A Vision for Change. Despite that, only €15 million was provided; a shortfall, therefore, of €20 million.
The mental health services in my own constituency of Tipperary are a good example of the malaise in which the services are at both a local and national level. Despite the best efforts of staff, the service is dysfunctional. In 2010, then Fianna Fáil Minister of State, John Moloney, decided to close the county’s inpatient services at St. Michael’s unit in Clonmel. His successor, then Labour Party Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, implemented that closure, despite the opposition of service users, carers, doctors, nursing staff and the public generally. South Tipperary inpatients were sent to Kilkenny and north Tipperary inpatients were sent to Ennis. That was done in 2012. The Minister of State sold the closure on the basis of a promise, quid pro quo, of a Rolls-Royce community-based service.
Three years later, we have the worst of all worlds. We have no inpatient service, community services are under-staffed, under-resourced and under-funded, and community-based teams are struggling to provide a safe service. They are deficient of staff across all categories of nursing, medical and paramedic staff. We have no 24-7 service. The new crisis house promised has not materialised. Patients are assessed in wholly unsuitable, busy and overcrowded accident and emergency departments with no privacy or confidentiality. The inpatient services in Kilkenny and Ennis are regularly overcrowded, there is difficulty in gaining admission and very often inappropriate early discharge. There is the proposed closure of the unit at Mount Sion in Tipperary town. The situation is wholly unacceptable. I call on the Minister of State to immediately implement A Vision for Change in Tipperary, including the provision of 24-7 services, the recruiting of additional nursing, medical and paramedic staff for our multi-disciplinary teams, the re-opening of the inpatient unit at St. Michael’s in Clonmel and a commitment to keep the Mount Sion unit open.
I acknowledge the excellent work being done by various voluntary organisations in the area of mental health locally.
I acknowledge organisations such as the consumer mental health panels, C-SAW suicide awareness group, the River Suir Suicide Patrol, Taxi Watch, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan support group and the Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue organisation among many others. I call on the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, as a matter of urgency, to meet with a deputation from County Tipperary about the mental health services in the county.