Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disabilities and Special Needs, Colm Keaveney TD, says the lack of adequate front-line mental health services in Roscommon is causing a public health emergency in the county.
Deputy Keaveney said while canvassing in Roscommon over recent weeks in advance of the Roscommon-South Leitrim bye-election he has spoken to many people directly impacted by the lack of mental health services.
He commented: “There is the beginning of a public health emergency in Roscommon and counties throughout rural Ireland. Over 20 psychiatric beds were recently closed at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe, which services the Roscommon area as well.
“Minister Kathleen Lynch has failed to honour commitments made in the Programme for Government to hire specialist mental health staff to underpin the roll out of ‘A Vision for Change’. This comes on top of Minister Lynch presiding over a €15 million cut in funding for mental services last year. This money was supposed to be ring-fenced but it became just another Government broken promise.
“I have met many people throughout Roscommon and South Leitrim in recent weeks who have told me about the negative impact of the lack of reform measures in the Government’s mental health policy. Farmers who are struggling with the beef crisis and with rural isolation feel they have nowhere to turn to.
“People with mental health difficulties are being forgotten about. It is extremely disappointing that the Fine Gael and Labour Government can find the resources to hire extra Gardaí to tackle social welfare fraud but the recruitment of frontline mental health staff has been blocked. This speaks volumes about the priorities of this Government.
“Minister Lynch also promised to oversee community led psychiatric teams, which would address the lack of access to mental health services in rural Ireland, but this has also been a failure. The evidence I have seen in Roscommon is of extreme isolation, especially in rural areas. Farmers are struggling with loneliness and with the beef crisis slashing the amount they receive for their produce, many feel forgotten about and alienated by the Government.
“We need to see a change in attitude from the Fine Gael and Labour Government, it must prioritise frontline mental health services, especially in rural areas like Roscommon.”