500 children waiting more than a year to access care

ALMOST 2,800 young people are on a waiting list for child and adolescent mental health services, HSE figures have shown.

Almost 500 children under 18 have been waiting for more than one year to access services. More than 600 have been waiting for between six months and one year, 615 for three to six months and 1,079 for less than three months.

Assistant National Director for Mental Health at the HSE Martin Rogan said it was policy to get an initial appointment for 70% of new cases within three months, and this target was at 68%.

Mr Rogan said if a child is in distress or self-harming or a GP is concerned, then the child will get an emergency referral.

According to the mental health boss, waiting lists are not a good measure of healthcare because unless you are actively unwell you are pushed down the queue.

Or – unless you are a young person in obvious visible crisis – you will end up waiting for a long period.

He said a lot of resources have gone into CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) in recent years. There are 55 CAMH teams – made up of 50 community teams, two day-hospital teams and three paediatric teams. However, they only have a third of the staffing ratio they are supposed to.

Mr Rogan – who will speak today at a special conference on the future of Mental Healthcare in Ireland, hosted by Investnet Ltd – said two new facilities, one in Galway and one in Cork, were about to open for young people, bringing the number of beds nationwide to 52 beds.

He said there was new pressure on all services due to the economic situation.

“More people are presenting to GPs with mental health issues, we are seeing a growth in that area unfortunately – the economic circumstance is distressing people, but with multi-disciplinary teams in place we are trying to offer people a range of options and therapies.”

Also among the range of speakers at today’s conference is John Lonergan, who spent 42 years working in the Irish prison service, including 26 years as Governor of Mountjoy Prison.

Mr Lonergan said serious social deprivation does real damage to children, and though many of these emotionally damaged people will end up in prison, prison is not the answer.

“The damage is done both psychologically and emotionally, and children from these areas often suffer from low esteem, with role models either absent or negative,” he said.


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