Simon Harris to give extra €55m to mental health services

There is a commitment to provide an additional €55m for mental health services next year, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

Mr Harris said over €910m is available to the HSE for mental health services this year, compared to just over €853m last year.

The additional money is to meet commitments in the programme for government and the confidence and supply arrangement to facilitate a Fine Gael minority government.

Mr Harris told a meeting of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health that the budget for mental health services would have to continue to grow.

However, additional funding is not the only issue — staff recruitment and retention is “proving difficult”, he said.

The lack of availability of specialist grades in the area of mental health is a global issue and innovative approaches need to be identified and implemented.

Mr Harris said agency staff would be used to fill vacant positions while strategies are being worked out; otherwise, sick people would not get the services they needed.

Jim Daly, minister of state for mental health, said there is “absolutely no need” for all young people who have mental health challenges to be referred to a psychiatric service.

Mr Daly said a directory of mental health services had been completed and people would be able to use a telephone service and be appropriately referred.

The people providing the service would be qualified to deal with people calling the service.

They will not be diagnosing; they will just be signposting you to where you should go,” he said.

“There is a tendency for all young people to be referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and there is absolutely no need for all young people who have mental health challenges to be going to a psychiatric service.”

Mr Harris said around 18,800 referrals are expected to be referred to the HSE’s CAMHS this year and about 14,300 are expected to be seen by the specialist service.

Demand for the service has increased by 26% since 2012.

The number of CAMHS teams has increased to 69 and there are three paediatric liaison teams supported by about 75 CAMHS beds nationally.

Mr Harris said more beds for the service would be provided as quickly as possible.

The HSE recently appointed 114 assistant psychologists and 20 psychologists who will deal with less complex child and adolescent cases at primary care level and reduce the burden on CAMHS.

Mr Harris said 10 new advanced nurse practitioner posts would have been recently approved for the CAMHS service.

“These new advance nurse practitioners will play a key role in delivering better service co-ordination where local service pressures are greatest,” he said.


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