May 23, 2024
CAST trial for Limerick must be prioritised and a commencement date set soon – Pa Daly TD, Senator Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin, spokesperson on Justice, Pa Daly TD, and Sinn Féin EU candidate for Ireland South, Senator Paul Gavan, have today commented on an update related to the Community Access Support Team (CAST) trial, due to happen in Limerick.
Teachta Daly said:
“The CAST trial has now been due to begin for a number of years, and whilst it is important the trial goes well, it should not be unduly delayed. I raised this matter with the Minister for Justice, and she confirmed the trial is still not underway.
“The removal of mental health response from the responsibility of the Gardaí is important for a number of reasons. Primarily, people in a mental health crisis should not be met with a law enforcement response where they have committed no criminal offence.

“This undermines their health and safety, as well as that of those first responders and the general public.
“Furthermore, the training provided to Gardaí is not adequate for these situations, and whilst rank and file members always do their best, dangerous situations can develop.
“At a time when Gardaí are under tremendous pressure, the removal of non-core duties can help greatly to ease their burden and have them focus on more suitable duties. This trial should be prioritised and I would call on the Minister to give clarity as to why it has not yet commenced.
Limerick-based Senator Gavan said:

“The continued delay to the implementation of the CAST trial in Limerick is deeply disappointing and another example of the lack of urgency from this government to improve mental health services.
“At the moment we are lucky to have many voluntary mental health groups in Limerick who respond to out of hours calls, and I would like to particularly commend the work of the volunteers at the Haven Hub, Limerick Suicide Watch and Limerick Treaty Suicide Prevention for their incredible dedication.
“The Community Access Support Team (CAST) will be a partnership approach to mental health between the HSE, paramedics and specially trained members of An Garda Síochána.

“They will be tasked with responding to out of hours calls regarding mental health concerns. The team will contact the concerned party, triage them and either treat them or refer them to an appropriate service provider.
“There are a significant number of mental health incidents which involve no safety risk or crime and therefore no need for the Gardaí to attend.
“It is crucial that people in mental health crisis are treated by those with the proper expertise to protect their safety and dignity. We know that in many cases, Gardaí attending a scene can have a negative impact on the individual, making them feel criminalised when what they need is specialist help.
“The implementation of the CAST trial for Limerick needs to be prioritised so that we have a commencement date soon.”


Note to editor:

PQ response re CAST can be found below:

For Written Answer on : 21/05/2024
Question Number(s): 463 Question Reference(s): 22910/24
Department: Justice
Asked by: Pa Daly T.D.
To ask the Minister for Justice to provide an update on the community access support team trial in Limerick.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Final Report and Recommendations of the High Level Task Force to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those who come into contact with the criminal justice sector was published by myself and the Minister for Health in September 2022.
The recommendations aim to ensure better support for people at the earliest point at which they encounter the criminal justice system and to divert them away from it where possible, while supporting them in their rehabilitation from addiction and in the recovery and management of their illness.

One of the recommendations that came from the work of the subgroup of the High Level Task Force that looked at diversion, was the development of a Community Access Support Team or CAST.

The development of the CAST approach should enhance diversionary practices for those experiencing crisis and situational trauma that leads to mental health difficulties. This approach moves towards the shared goal of  providing  a compassionate and effective response to people in distress and improving the experience and outcomes for those experiencing distress and those providing support.

Before nationwide rollout, the pilot project CAST will be trialled in the Limerick Garda Division. It is a partnership pilot between An Garda Síochána and the Mental Health Services HSE, Mid-West Community Healthcare. The pilot project is not a mental health de-escalation unit, but will endeavour to establish an appropriate co-response approach to calls relating to mental health and situational trauma. Contact is ongoing between officials from my Department and the Department of Health, An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive on the delivery of this initiative.

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