Written answers

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Department of Health

Mental Health Services

Photo of Mark WardMark Ward (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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70. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide a comprehensive report into the progress in obtaining surge capacity in private mental health facilities as agreed by the passing in Dáil Éireann of the Mental Health Surge Capacity motion. [28332/21]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The HSE has engaged with 6 independent providers for the provision of additional capacity into the mental health sector. This additional capacity includes the purchase of acute beds as well as longer term care beds in order to free up capacity in the statutory sector.  A total of €13.65 million has been allocated to purchasing the additional capacity in 2021.

Following a specific procurement process, 5 additional Mental Health Intellectual Disability beds and 10 additional Specialised Rehabilitation Unit beds will shortly be available to the HSE. The HSE is also negotiating additional capacity with a partner housing agency for the purchase of 8 step-down beds designed to meet the needs of individuals moving from a Specialised Rehabilitation Unit or other service.  

The HSE is working with an existing provider to deliver 3-5 additional beds for individuals with very high needs requiring long term care, a number of whom are subject to court orders. 

Current arrangements for beds in private hospitals continue, as does the purchase of beds for COVID-19 or other clinical reasons, as required.  

A specialist group reporting to the Sharing the Vision National Monitoring and Implementation Committee is also being established to review mental health services bed capacity.

The Deputy can rest assured that I will continue to keep this matter under close review, in conjunction with the HSE.

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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71. To ask the Minister for Health his plans in relation to financial, service-based schemes to provide for the growing needs of community mental health and to ensure that Covid-19 crisis and emergency mental health teams are better resourced going forward in view of the fact that mental health support services were inundated pre-pandemic and that there are studies providing evidence that public mental health has suffered further throughout the pandemic. [23887/21]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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While there is no doubt that Covid-19 has posed significant challenges, including isolation, bereavement, anxiety and loss of income and work for many, we do not yet fully understand the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and subsequent demand on services.  A negative mental health outcome from the pandemic is not inevitable, if we respond in a cohesive manner.

Since the pandemic started, mental health services have responded rapidly, continuing to deliver supports in the safest possible way throughout the country. The HSE and the Department continue to plan for any surge in demand for mental health services and supports as it arises. The HSE have service surge capacity plans in place, including access to acute beds in the private sector.

The HSE has a range of proactive responses for any rise in mental health service needs, including online and other telehealth psychosocial supports. In 2020, an additional €2.2 million was allocated to develop telehealth and psychosocial responses to Covid-19. Telehealth services are now fully established while the HSE Psychosocial Framework, published in January 2021, provides a cohesive, coordinated, consistent and collaborative whole-of-population approach to the provision of mental health services and supports.

I secured an additional €50 million for mental health services in 2021, bringing the annual budget to in excess of €1.1 billion. €23 million of this additional funding is dedicated to commencing implementation of many of the short-term recommendations of Sharing the Vision while €15M is allocated to address additional challenges posed by Covid-19.

More generally, further developments in mental health services continue in line with the national mental health policy, Sharing the Vision and commitments set out in the HSE National Service Plan 2021. The €23 million allocated to the implementation of Sharing the Vision is funding enhanced resources for community mental health teams, CAMHS hubs/teams, adult crisis resolution services, increased supports in employment, peer support workers, bereavement co-ordination, and dialectical behaviour therapy. Work is progressing in these areas, including the recruitment of the 153 new mental health staff this year.

Sharing the Vision recommends the continued phased implementation and evaluation of existing national clinical programmes in mental health, including Dual Diagnosis, Early Intervention in Psychosis, and Eating Disorders. The clinical programmes, which are in various stages of design and implementation, are at the heart of service improvement.

 Additionally, out of hours crisis supports will be enhanced in line with Sharing the Vision and commitments set out in the HSE National Service Plan 2021. Funding has been allocated in 2021 for crisis resolution teams, crisis or community cafes, and CAMHS telehealth hubs.

The HSE is committed to improving its infrastructure, including new or improved community-based facilities and services for people with more severe and enduring mental health difficulties. Of the additional funding provided in 2021, €7m will fund reconfiguration of mental health facilities, in line with Mental Health Commission and  Covid-19 related risk assessment recommendations. This, plus the recurring €6m in new development funding, means there is €13 million for minor works and refurbishments in 2021.

Additionally, in 2020, the Government Covid-19 Stability Fund provided €45 million to community organisations providing services, including social care. An additional €10 million was provided in 2021. The fund is managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development, and Pobal are administering partners. 

Earlier this year, the Taoiseach announced additional funding for mental health for proposed cross-governmental and inter-agency initiatives to meet evolving demands for mental health arising from Covid-19, including those relating to young people. This will cover, for example, promoting positive mental health, increasing awareness of the wide range of supports available, and improving signposting to these service and supports. The Department of Health is at present progressing the details of this new initiative, including consultation with other relevant stakeholders in the health and education sectors.

I would like to assure the Deputy that I, along with the Government as a whole, remain fully committed to enhancing the provision of mental health services nationally.  

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