Thursday, 1 March 2012
Suicide Prevention Services
Róisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, who has responsibility in this area. I thank Senator Mullins for raising this issue today.
The Irish Institute of Naturopathic Medicine treatment programme provides support and holistic based therapies in addiction, autism, mental health issues and so on. Funding was provided to the institute in 2005 and again in 2007 to support its work. These payments were once-off supports and no arrangement was entered into by the HSE to support the institute on an ongoing basis. Since then, the HSE has supported some individuals who wished to access services provided by the institute. However, it is clear that these supports were of a limited nature and specific to the individuals concerned. Given the budgetary restrictions in more recent years, it is no longer possible for the HSE to offer financial support to individuals who may wish to access services at the institute. The institute provides a range of alternative and complementary therapies. These therapies are not endorsed by the HSE, and the executive does not refer clients to the institute for treatment. For that reason, there is no basis for the HSE to enter into a service level agreement with the institute.
In these extremely difficult financial times, it is necessary for the HSE mental health services across all regions to continually review the provision of services in an effort to maximise the balance of service access within the available resources. I assure the House that the Government is committed to the development of our mental health and suicide prevention services. This commitment was clearly shown in budget 2012, which provided for a special allocation of €35 million for mental health services in line with commitments in the programme for Government. Funding from this special allocation will be used primarily to strengthen the community mental health teams in both adult and children's mental health services. Some of the funding will also be used to advance activities in the area of suicide prevention and response to self-harm presentations, and to initiate the provision of psychological and counselling services in primary care.
It is intended that the additional resources will be rolled out in conjunction with a scheme of appropriate clinical care programmes which are currently being developed. Three areas in particular will be prioritised in 2012: eating disorders, early intervention in psychosis, and suicide prevention. A fundamental principle of early intervention for any health condition is that identification, diagnosis and treatment should occur as early as possible to maximise the likelihood that interventions will successfully minimise the burden of suffering. By strengthening our community mental health teams and enhancing the capacity of primary care to deal with people with mental health issues, I hope we will go a long way towards achieving that goal. I thank the Senator for raising the matter.