Tuesday, 2 July 2019
Mental Health Services Reports: Motion [Private Members]
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive outline. I compliment my colleague, Deputy Browne, on the work he has done to date.
The recent report, regardless of what we have heard, highlights many areas of concern. Some of the failures make for stark reading. There is an ongoing crisis in mental health services for children. As the Minister of State is well aware, early intervention for children with mental health issues is critical. Too many children continue to be admitted to adult units. One is one too many. They are already vulnerable or scared and it is far from ideal and potentially more damaging to them to be admitted to an adult unit.
The report states clearly that the first introduction of a child or adolescent to mental healthcare should not be through a service or building that is not specifically equipped to deal with his or her needs. Last year, 84 children and teenagers were admitted to adult units. I have dealt with many cases myself in my constituency of Waterford. One teenager was in a hospital bed miles from home for months on end waiting for placement. Another teenager was admitted to an adult ward and that really proved to be a barrier to his recovery. I find that not only are the children and young teenagers affected, but there is a knock-on effect on the family, including the parents, grandparents and siblings. It would be remiss of me to stand here tonight and not acknowledge the help I have received from the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, in securing the correct facilities for both young teenagers whose cases I have mentioned. I thank the Minister of State for that and for the help that he engaged in both cases. This is the nub of the issue. We can talk about it all night long. There are not enough adolescent beds in the system in the State for these young people. It is very difficult to have to place someone in a mental health institute that is no longer fit for purpose and that is for adults.
The waiting lists and waiting times are too long. I am calling for a renewed focus to reduce these service deficits. I welcome what the Minister of State has said about the new 170-bed hospital at Portrane. I am sure that will make a difference. If there is one thing that we can take from tonight it is that we will do our level best. I know the Minister of State has no wish to put a child into an adult facility. He has told me as much and I believe him. We need to get the message across to the Department and the HSE loud and clear that we will have zero tolerance when it comes to putting a young child into an adult facility. If that is all that comes out of this debate tonight, then it will have been a job well done.