Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams raised his concerns about mental health facilities in north Louth during Leaders Questions with the Taoiseach this morning. Mr. Adams called on the government to provide a time frame for the full implementation of the mental health programme ‘Vision for Change.’
The focus of Teachta Adams question centred on the report that there have been sixteen suicides in Cork in a fortnight. And the impact of this on families and communities. The Louth TD made the point that suicide and deficiencies in mental health services is an issue in Louth as well as in other parts of the island of Ireland.
Teachta Adams said:
“Suicide affects all sections and all generations are affected, from the very young to the very old, in rural and urban areas. It’s a human cost beyond comprehension. One in seven adults will experience mental health challenges in any given year. In 2015, there were 451 recorded suicides in this State and 318 in the north, though we all know under reporting is wide spread.
The real figure for suicide across the island may be as high as one thousand people annually. It has also been recorded that at least 8,790 citizens presented with self-harm at hospitals across the State.
Last month I visited the Ladywell mental health day centre in Dundalk, which provides services for most of north Louth. The staff are extremely dedicated, but the conditions in which they are forced to treat patients is entirely unsuitable. The rooms are originally staff quarters which date back to when the hospital was first built seventy years ago. Some rooms are closed because of dampness. The maintenance bill alone is a constant drain on resources.
And whilst staff numbers have increased, there’s no room for them in Ladywell so they have to work out of St. Brigid’s in Ardee, with patients as far away as Carlingford having to travel there.
It’s entirely unacceptable, and they are of course just one of many units across the State that desperately need additional funding and an overhaul of facilities.
This morning I wrote to the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health Helen McEntee. I asked her to provide a time frame for the delivery of a Primary Care Centre in Dundalk or, if this is not possible, to commit to the renovation and extension of the existing facilities at Ladywell to ensure adequate mental healthcare provision for the people of North Louth.
The State’s mental health policy ‘A Vision for Change’ has been in place since 2006. Despite that and ten years later there is still an absence of 24/7 crisis care. Staffing levels across the board are about 75% of the ‘Vision for Change’ recommended number. In some areas, they are way behind that figure.
In child and adolescent teams, staffing is just half of that recommended. The government committed to providing 8.24% of the health budget to mental health services. This target has never been met.
This pattern was repeated in this year’s budget. €35 million was announced, but the Minister then said just €15 million in additional funds would be provided for next year. An increase of less than two percent.
The government has a responsibility to provide a firm time frame for the implementation of Vision for Change.”