More than 600 children are waiting longer than a year for an appointment with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs), a jump from 521 in September, latest HSE data shows.
Cork/Kerry now has more children waiting to be seen (857) than any other HSE region in the country. This includes 296 children waiting longer than one year, up from 178 in September.
Across Clare/Limerick/North Tipperary there are 437 children waiting, including 116 on a waiting list for over a year so far. In the region that includes Waterford and South Tipperary, there are 321 children waiting, with 18 of these waiting for longer than a year.
A separate Mental Health Commission interim report on HSE regions earlier this week was critical of varied waiting times around the country. The national waiting list shows 4,293 children waiting for mental health interventions, although 40% have waited less than 12 weeks.
The latest figures were released to Labour TD for East Cork Sean Sherlock who called for “innovative and fast solutions” from the HSE. “The numbers awaiting intervention continue to rise and families and children continue to be failed by a broken system,” he said.
“Over 4,000 children awaiting mental health intervention is an absolute disgrace, and it is growing. In CHO 4, Cork and Kerry the numbers waiting over a year appear to grow by over 60% since September.”
Labour health spokesman Duncan Smith criticised the ongoing vacancies in the South Kerry Camhs and other issues highlighted by the MHC. “The recent report identified a failure to manage risk or fund staff, which is a departmental and HSE issue,” he said.
He added: “We have no real integration in children's mental health services and risk management is obliterated in our Camhs.”
Practical integration between services is crucial according to Jigsaw Director of Communications and Fundraising Mike Mansfield. Jigsaw cares for children with emerging mild to moderate mental health challenges while Camhs caters for a smaller proportion of children with more serious challenges.
“It’s just a bit disjointed,” he said. “We do have some formal linkages across the services, but it is patchy. Camhs might say to a young person ‘you need to contact Jigsaw’ so the young person contacts us, has to tell their story again and that can be problematic.”
He added: “In other areas we have formal referrals, where it’s a case of ‘you’re not for us in Camhs, I’ll get in touch with Jigsaw on your behalf.’” Essentially, he said: “we need all the different services to start talking to each other.”
A national director for mental health services role directly accountable for reform is needed, he said. Referring to the Camhs lists, he said: “If we get in early the young person doesn’t have to end up in an in-patient bed. If there is an increase in funding, then as much of it as possible should be invested in early intervention.”
A spokeswoman for Cork/Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation said two of the 10 Camhs teams there do not have a full-time psychiatric consultant. Other shortages are being covered through remote clinics, weekend clinics and using agency staff.
“We wish to reassure young people and their families that urgent cases are responded to on a priority basis,” she said. “In a crisis situation, we would urge families to contact their team, their Camhs team directly. Out-of-hours, emergency supports are available through emergency departments.”