Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says a new Bill being brought forward by his party will deliver improvements to services and enhance protections for adults and children accessing our mental health services.

The ‘Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2017’ seeks to implement many of the recommendations contained in the 2015 report of the Expert Group on the Review of the Mental Health Act 2001.

Speaking during a Dáil debate this week Deputy Scanlon explained, “There are serious issues with waiting times for access to mental health services, especially here in the North West.  There are currently 480 children on the CAMHS waiting list, with 87 listed as priority cases.  However, there is only one specialised child psychiatrist in the region.  This is unfair and unacceptable.  Staffing issues need to be addressed urgently or the situation will deteriorate further.

“I met with six parents last weekend who have children waiting for access to mental health services.  It’s being claimed that doctors have been instructed not to refer any more children to the CAMHS service because they do not have the staff to deal with them.  I know there are efforts underway to recruit a full-time psychiatrist but there is no doubt that these services are not given sufficient priority.  The families that I met with are extremely frustrated.

“Two weeks ago, I was contacted by a friend, a parent who spent 12 hours in Sligo University Hospital with her teenage daughter who had been self-harming for over a year and who was now suicidal.  She was referred to Galway University Hospital but after spending hours in the Emergency Department, despite the fact that she had a referral letter, she was turned away after being told that there were no beds for children.  In fact there are no beds for children in need of psychiatric assessment or treatment in the whole region.

“Despite some excellent services and dedicated staff, the supports in the North West, and right across the country, are sporadic and not always fit for purpose.  Mental health services have for too long been the poor relation of the health service and all too often money, which was earmarked for mental health has been diverted to other areas.  This has to stop.  We need to address the serious issues in our mental health services and begin implementing international best practice and I believe this Bill is a step in that direction”.