A dedicated mental health phoneline similar to the 999 system is to be established by the end of the year, Fine Gael TD Jim Daly has promised.
The minister of state for mental health has committed to establishing a single phone number that would act as the access point into mental health services.
It comes as a damning report published by the all-party Oireachtas committee on the future of mental health care highlighted chronic staff shortages and waiting lists, over-reliance on medicating patients and a failure to provide services at night.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner Mr Daly said: “I want to establish a single dedicated phoneline with an easily identifiable number as easy as 999 that everyone will dial.”
Mr Daly said €55m has already been allocated for new mental health initiatives and the phoneline will be part of this.
“I hope to be in a position to establish that before the year-end,” said the Cork South-West TD.
“It will be a referral pathway so we would have a directory of all the services in the country. The HSE has just put together a directory of every single mental health service in the country.”
Mr Daly also said a “much more appropriate” referral system is needed for young people with mental health issues. He said there are too many referrals of young people to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services which has resulted in long waiting lists.
“The mental health equivalent of trolleys is the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services waiting lists,” he said.
“There are much lower levels of intervention and that’s what needs to be happening in mental health. Not everyone needs to be referred to the consultant psychiatrist and if you go into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, you have to be seen by a consultant psychiatrist.”
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