Members and supporters of Mental Health Reform will be well aware of the Government’s commitment of €35 million in funding for mental health services in 2012, including €24 million for adult and child Community Mental Health Teams. The establishment of these teams, across the country, has long been called for by mental health campaigners, and the commitment in Budget 2012 was a welcome one.
However, in recent weeks Mental Health Reform has received messages of concern from people working within the mental health services and from associated groups that the HSE commitment in its 2012 plan to staff community mental health teams was at risk. Fears were expressed that this funding may be in danger of being diverted to shore up budget deficits within in-patient mental health services. RTE’s 9 O’clock News picked up the story on 6th June, interviewing Minister Kathleen Lynch, HSE Assistant National Director for Mental Health Martin Rogan and Mental Health Reform’s Orla Barry. (Watch the RTE 9 O’clock News from 6th June, at 0:14:59 here)
Answering reports that none of the staff for Community Mental Health Teams have yet been recruited, Minister Lynch was adamant that “all of the staff will be recruited this year”. However, Martin Rogan acknowledged that “it may be necessary, on a short term basis, to support other services within the mental health sector”, referring to in-patient services.
Orla Barry pointed out that the Government’s investment in staffing for Community Mental Health Teams is key to the future development of Ireland’s Mental Health Services and insisted that “it is not acceptable that any of this funding is diverted”. The story continued the next day, carried by The Irish Times online under the headline Health group concerned at delays.
Mental Health Reform has since written to Minister Lynch and to HSE CEO Cathal Magee, asking for assurance that the 404 posts designated for Community Mental Health Teams will be in place by the end of 2012, and that the staffing of these teams will be ring-fenced so that staff cannot be diverted to elsewhere in the Mental Health Service. Watch this space for updates on the situation.