Mental health clinic for children closes after insurer denies cover

IT’S a sign of the times to see new houses lying idle but to see this particular property – fully furnished and with facilities – but with no inhabitants is particularly sad.

The Haven, outside Maynooth, was purpose built to provide high-quality child and adolescent mental health services in a unique setting as a model of the family home.

But now, just over a year after it opened, the clinic is closed as it could not get any insurance company to cover people using the services despite being an approved centre.

Paul Stapleton’s voice is undeniably sad when he talks about the failed venture, for which he gave up his job as a psychiatric nurse in Temple Street Children’s Hospital to focus on.

He and a colleague decided they did not want to sit back and watch young people being turned away from services anymore.

“We wanted to provide high-quality care outside a hospital setting. Admitting a child to hospital for psychiatric care should be a last resort as the distress is so profound that it can makes matter worse,” he said.

“We decided to put our money where our mouth is and tried to set something up for young people in crisis.”

The Haven had a highly trained staff of 15 nurses and doctors, four to six beds and was ready to cater for challenging cases.

The team was also running an out-patient clinic which closed in recent weeks as they could no longer afford to keep it going.

“We had set aside €1.5 million to cover our running costs and now it is gone.”

According to Mr Stapleton, the VHI did not accept there was a need for the beds and so refused to provide cover.

This is despite massive waiting lists for young people seeking to access mental health services and only 36 beds available to teenagers with mental health problems across the country.

The Government’s own blueprint for the future of the mental health services, A Vision for Change, recommended 100 beds needed to be created urgently.

And the HSE plans to build smaller units, comprising approximately eight beds, in about 12 regions across the country.

“When I worked in Temple Street we could not get in-patient beds, there are not enough services, yet here we tried to provide the services but could not get the insurance when the need is clearly there.”

A bed at Haven was €1,050 a night versus up to €1,500 in other private clinics.

“We were not looking to make money on this. Our price included psychiatry and all services – there were no hidden charges.

“We would have just covered our costs with that price.”

Mr Stapleton said he believed there was a “huge demand” for services, but said without insurance cover people simply could not afford to pay, and the HSE could only work within the budget it had.

“Mental health is not a priority. I think the HSE gets a lot of grief but really it is the Department of Health that controls the funding. Other areas of health get much more funding, mental health has been starved of investment.”


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