Fine Gael Limerick TD and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, has called for the urgent appointment of Director of Mental Health Services within the Health Service Executive. Deputy Neville was speaking during a debate in the Dáil today (Thursday) on the HSE Service Plan 2012.
“The appointment of a Director of Mental Health Services will be crucial to ensure that the €35 million being ring-fenced for mental health services this year is properly spent. We cannot allow funds to be re-directed to other areas, as has happened in the past. I welcome the commitment from the Minister for Health, James Reilly, to appoint a Director of Mental Health Services, but I would urge him to act quickly.
“In 2006 and 2007, €50 million was allocated for mental health services, but it later emerged that €27 million of this amount was diverted to other areas. As a result, no further resources were allocated and the recommendations of the expert report ‘A Vision for Change’ went unimplemented.
“Under the HSE’s present structure, the provision of mental health services is fragmented. There is an Assistant National Director for Mental Health, but the budget for the delivery of mental health services is split across the four Regional Directors of Operations. The National Office for Suicide Prevention, which reports to the Assistant National Director, has a budget of €4.2 million, yet a further €4.5 million is again split across the four Regional Directors of Operations for suicide prevention activities.
“The €35 million being provided directly for mental health services in 2012 will primarily be spent on the recruitment of 400 posts for community mental health teams. The continued staffing of such teams is absolutely necessary if we are to deliver a community based mental health care system.
“But it is equally important is to ensure adequate oversight and co-ordination of mental health spending. Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has indicated that the proposed new Director of Mental Health will be responsible for how the ring-fenced €35 million is spent. However, in order for mental health service to be on a par with acute hospital and primary care services, the new Director should also be the budget holder for the entire mental health allocation of €707 million. This will allow one person to have full responsibility and accountability for our entire mental health and suicide prevention activities.”