Mental health focus in €3m community group funding

A new €3m fund will allow sporting and community organisations to address mental health issues with its members in what a minister has termed a “groundbreaking policy shift”.

The ringfenced €3m fund will be announced as part of the HSE’s National Service Plan in the coming weeks but will break with tradition by having funding allocated to community and sporting organisations to focus on early intervention and mental health resilience.

Jim Daly, the minister with responsibility for mental health, said the funding stream would allow applicant groups to directly address any concerns among their members.

“This is my effort to reorientate funding to a more proactive, bottom-up approach,” he said.

The €3m comes from the extra €55m allocated to mental health for the development of new services announced in Budget 2019 and according to Mr Daly forms “a new concept for the HSE” in which it administers the funding to others.

“Critically, these sporting organisations and community groups already have the network and infrastructure in place to reach many young people,” he said.

“With a modest amount of financial support from Government, they could do so much more to proactively aid mental wellbeing. They also have a vast reservoir of experience, practical mentoring and knowledge.”

It’s understood that under the minister’s proposal, which already has Cabinet backing, groups will be able to apply for funding from next February, with funding likely to be allocated in or by early summer.

The HSE will be involved in establishing the criteria to be met by applicants to secure funding, which can be used to either train members or invite counsellors and mental health specialists to clubs to speak with members. It will also be available for wellbeing and cognitive behavioural therapy programmes. It’s hoped the funding can be allocated to clubs across the country.

“This is going to be a trial, it will be evaluated and they [the applicants] will have to prove to us that we are getting value for money,” he said.

He said if the new funding stream was seen to be effective he hoped it could then be expanded to €5m or €6m in the next Budget. He said the money was not for existing initiatives which some clubs may already run but was designed for new initiatives.

The HSE’s National Service Plan is due to signed off in the coming weeks and details of the new funding mechanism will be finalised ahead of its launch in the first quarter of next year.

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