Seanad debates

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Commencement Matters

Mental Health Services Provision

10:30 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I, too, welcome the Minister of State. More than 100,000 Irish people took part in the Darkness into Light walk to raise funds and, much more importantly, to raise awareness of suicide in this country and internationally last Friday night into Saturday morning. This was also the case in County Clare, where six different walks took place. In Ennis, more than 2,000 people took part while in excess of 1,000 people took part in Kilrush in west Clare. More than 600 people took part in the walk in Miltown Malbay, where it was held for the first time this year. There were also walks in Shannon and Killaloe.

Suicide has affected every parish, every region and every county in this country and many people are doing their utmost to deal with it. There are many organisations involved in mental health in this country, all of which bring their own unique perspective, experience, local knowledge base, etc., to the table. All play a pivotal role in raising awareness, preventing suicide and supporting people who have difficulties with mental health. The West Clare Mental Health Association is one of those organisations, which has done enormous work over the last few years in supporting people in west Clare with mental health issues. It provides on-the-ground support, intervention support, peer support and financial support and engages in fund-raising - the whole realm of support that, as a society and as a State, we have failed to provide. The Minister of State has acknowledged in the past that we have an awful long way to go. Fortunately, we have organisations, such as the West Clare Mental Health Association, which go some way to providing the necessary supports and filling a very big void in terms of what we should be doing as a State but are not doing. Organisations like the West Clare Mental Health Association fill that void with honour and do a very good job.

There is a facility in Kilrush which is vacant at the moment. As part of its development programme, the organisation is looking to use this vacant facility as a base or a hub to deal with the various services it provides. The facility is vacant and is in the ownership of the HSE.A proposal on the use of this premises by the West Clare Mental Health Association has been submitted to the Health Service Executive. This would be a natural step forward that would reflect the spirit of partnership that exists between the HSE, the State and mental health associations nationwide. The West Clare Mental Health Association would maintain the facility, which is currently vacant and would provide the group with a much-needed base to allow it to continue to develop the vital work it is doing on behalf of the community.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Conway for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity to outline the position. The Senator will appreciate that the Health Service Executive has statutory and operational responsibility for the planning and delivery of services at local level. The mid-west mental health services provide a range of adult mental health services within the specialties of general adult, psychiatry of old age and rehabilitation psychiatry as well as a forensic service. It encompasses various settings such as service user homes, acute inpatient facilities, day hospitals, day centres and supported community residences. The service, which is community based, has a focus on recovery principles in line with A Vision for Change.

The West Clare Mental Health Association is one of four mental health associations funded by the HSE in the Clare area. The HSE mid-west also funds a number of mental health associations in County Limerick and north Tipperary. The West Clare Mental Health Association provides valuable support and services to people with mental illness, including peer support, social interaction and self-care programmes. The HSE and Department value the role of the association and are extremely supportive of its work. I also acknowledge the excellent work of 103 local mental health associations and numerous other voluntary groups operating nationwide, which are engaged in a wide range of activities and services that promote mental health and support those with mental illness.

Until recently, the Avonree Centre was used to accommodate people with a mild to moderate intellectual disability. However, arising from health and safety concerns and other problems with the building, the Health Service Executive had to relocate residents to a more appropriate premises. I understand the HSE has carefully reviewed the proposal for the use of Avonree for west Clare peer support services. However, given the unsuitability of the premises arising from health and safety issues, it is not in a position to agree to the proposal. Substantial capital investment would be required to make the building safe and I regret that the funding required is not available to undertake this work. However, if at any stage another more suitable premises becomes available, the HSE will re-examine the request.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I fully accept that the last thing that should be done is compromise people by placing them in a building that is not safe or fit for purpose. I welcome the commitment given by the Minister of State and Health Service Executive on identifying a suitable centre. I hope it will extend to all State agencies in the west Clare area.

As the Minister of State correctly noted, the West Clare Mental Health Association does valuable work. It would be a natural progression for the association to acquire a premises as a hub for the provision of peer supports. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to address this issue.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

When mental health was at the bottom of the pile, voluntary organisations such as the West Clare Mental Health Association, Cork Mental Health Foundation and Housing Association and similar organisations elsewhere did the type of community-based support work recommended in A Vision of Change. They are very much a part of the solution and it is in the interests of everyone that their future is secured. This will be an ongoing process.