Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Mental Health Services Provision
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle as ucht an t-ábhar seo a roghnú inniu. I thank him for selecting this Topical Issue matter. I thank the Deputy for raising it. I have said here previously that one of the most admirable characteristics of any Deputy, or Senator for that matter, is consistency. I acknowledge Deputy Healy's consistency and thank him for his continuing interest in all areas related to mental health in the area he represents in Tipperary. He has continuously raised this issue and challenged us on it and I acknowledge the good work he has done on behalf of the mental health sector in promoting awareness of the issue in his local area.
Specifically on the issue of the construction of a crisis house in Clonmel, as the Deputy will be aware, I am quite familiar with the project. I have met him and his colleagues on a number of occasions and have visited the area and met them there also to view the services that are available and to see how we can progress this project. I am anxious to see the crisis house project in Clonmel developed as soon as possible. As the Deputy will be aware from our meetings, new building regulations have been introduced since the project was designed which, as the Deputy said, dates back seven years. New building regulations have had to be taken into account and that has been done. A detailed redesign has taken place accommodating the new building regulations, therefore we had to recost the project, which is being done. I am anxious to see this project included in the capital development plan, which will be launched shortly by my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Harris. There is nothing to stop it progressing from there.
As alluded to by the Deputy, I have been down in the area and have acknowledged there is an issue with accommodation and beds in the greater Tipperary area. I view this as an absolute priority on a national front and I do not say that lightly. People in every constituency are looking for something to be done in their area but I have no difficulty whatsoever in saying that I would like to see the crisis house project in Tipperary top of the list of projects coming under the mental health area and to see that need being addressed because there is an issue there.
The Deputy will also know that my philosophy is very much to build a level of infrastructure at a lower level, and I do not like using the word "lower" but a reduced or a lower level of infrastructure for mental health. Thankfully the Jigsaw service will be rolled out in Tipperary, which the Deputy has publicly welcomed previously. We need more investment in that level of infrastructure to prevent the need for people having to access psychiatric beds. When we reflect on our history and look back to the 1960s there were 20,000 psychiatric inpatient beds in the country and all of them were filled. Today, there are fewer than 1,000. We have come a long way in how we deal with the challenges presented by people with mental health issues.
In the two years I have been in this job I have tried very much to refocus and reorientate the system towards having more proactive, bottom up supports, earlier intervention to prevent people having episodes of psychosis and such like which result in they sometimes having to go into care. We have to deal also with the issue of people presenting with acute mental health issues. I accept the challenges that exist in terms of accommodation and people having to travel to Kilkenny.
I am anxious to see this project progress as soon as the recosting is done, with which I do not envisage there will be any delay. I do not see any problem with having the funding available for it. This has been a top priority nationally. Thanks to the good work of the Deputy and his colleagues, they have ensured that it remains so. The people in the HSE are aware of my concerns and those of the Deputy and his colleagues regarding this project and our anxiety to see it proceed as quickly as possible. I certainly will do everything I can for my part to ensure that the crisis house project is built in Clonmel without delay.