Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers is calling for a guarantee that mental health funding will be properly ring-fenced and not siphoned off to cover shortfalls in other areas of the health service.  The Castlebar based Deputy was reacting to confirmation that the €35m originally earmarked for mental health services will now be spent in other health specialities.

Deputy Chambers commented, “For too long now, mental health services have suffered because of the outgoing Government’s failure to allocate the resources necessary to ensure a functioning health service.  Despite promising to protect funding for mental health, Fine Gael and Labour have delayed funding allocations and instead diverted money to other areas when crises have emerged.

“The HSE’s 2016 Service Plan claimed to have set aside €35m for mental health services, however it failed to outline how and where this money would be spent.  The document merely contained vague references to “further specific initiatives”.

“Mental health issues are bordering on a national emergency.  It is disgraceful that voluntary organisations and charities are funding essential services, which should be provided by the State.  We need to properly fund our mental health services – and stop this practice of raiding the budget every time there is a shortfall in other areas.  Mental health services need to be acknowledged as being as important, if not more important as other sections of the healthcare system.

“A Vision for Change was first published more than 10 years ago but the current funding levels do not even provide for the staffing levels set out in that strategy.  We need to address this as a matter of urgency. The next Government cannot continue to ignore the significant challenges that need to be addressed in the mental health sector and securing workable budget which is properly ring-fenced to ensure that services are enhanced and improved”.