Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
I thank the Minister of State. I welcome many of the initiatives she announced in her opening statement, particularly regarding surge capacity. We have been calling for an initiative on surge capacity for a while. It is very welcome. I acknowledge the Minister of State's commitment to addressing eating disorder services but I wonder whether surge capacity can be used for people who are currently suffering from eating disorders while services are being put in place. That would be very welcome.
I have three further questions. I will leave the Minister of State time at the end to get back to me. She mentioned Kerry. Recent disclosures that young people may have been prescribed adult doses of medication at a CAMH service in south Kerry are extremely concerning. The gravity of the alleged breaches of clinical guidelines in Kerry is such that a national review should be mandated. It should not just be a local review, as indicated in the Minister of State's opening statement. How could this have gone undetected for four years? Immense distress has been caused among the children and families directly involved but there is concern right across the State over whether this has happened in other areas. That is why a national review is needed to determine whether the incident was isolated or is systemic right across the State. Is the Minister of State going to institute an independent national review into this matter under her authority under the Mental Health Act 2001, which empowers her to direct the Inspector of Mental Health Services to take on such a task?
Last week, we had a good debate on the Sinn Féin motion on mental health. It was passed. One of our asks, which was not mentioned in the Minister of State's opening statement, was for the Government to introduce a crisis de-escalation team. This would involve a multi-agency approach that would include a mental health nurse and specially trained gardaí. They would call to persons having mental health difficulties in the community, triage them, treat them, refer them and bring them to the appropriate service where they can get the care they need when they need it. Could I have an update on whether, or when, the Minister of State will be introducing this service? Will it be a pilot? Has she considered any locations?
My last question is also on the motion last week. Another objective of the motion was to ease access to talk therapy for people who need to talk about their mental health circumstances. Especially because of Covid, many people are experiencing mental health difficulties for the very first time. It is imperative that people have access to supports when and where they need them. One of the barriers that general practitioners are telling me they face when referring patients to counsellors and psychotherapists is the Government's failure to regulate. The therapists are fully qualified and accredited but they are waiting on CORU, which stated it will be at least five years before the counselling and psychotherapy professions will see any advance at all in the registration process. Does the Minister of State have any update on the CORU registration process? Will it just be put on the long finger?