Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has called on the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Butler, to give a statement and answer questions in the Dáil following the publication of a damning interim report by the Mental Health Commission.
The report found serious concerns and consequent risks for patients in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Teachta Ward has also asked for the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee to meet urgently with the HSE to discuss the crisis in children’s mental health, and added that it is clear that CAMHS is not working and that an urgent strategy is needed to tackle the crisis.
Teachta Ward said:
“The publication of a damning Interim Report into CAMHS has shown that we have now gone way beyond crisis point when it comes to our children’s mental health.
“Only last week I raised the issue that the number of children waiting on an appointment with CAMHS has increased by 86 percent under this government.
“Of major concern is the situation of the ‘lost children’ identified in this report. This pertains to children and young people with open cases, who have been lost to follow-up.
“Ultimately the report describes a situation of children, who should have had follow-up appointments, including review of prescriptions or monitoring of medication, waiting for an appointment in some cases for up to two years.
“That is completely unacceptable. That is two years where some teams were not monitoring antipsychotic medication, in accordance with international standards, while other children were taking medication without appropriate blood tests and physical monitoring that is essential when on such medication.
“In one CAMHS team alone, there were 140 ‘lost children’. Everything must be done to identify these children immediately to ensure that they receive the appropriate mental health treatment. Parents who are concerned that their child is one of the lost children need to be able to access help.
“The Mental Health Commission found that lack of governance in many areas is contributing to some inefficient and unsafe CAMHS services, including the failure to manage risk, failure to fund and recruit key staff.
“The current systems within the HSE are counterproductive as there is a failure to look at alternative models of providing services when recruitment becomes difficult.
“There is also no ring-fenced budget for CAMHS, which hinders the ability to provide a standardised service across and within CHOs.
“I want to thank Dr Susan Finnerty and the Mental Health Commission for highlighting the crisis in CAMHS.
“The government must now look at the immediate regulation of CAMHS under the Mental Health Act. This would give the Mental Health Commission the power to set standards for high quality and good practices across all CAMHS services.
“I also want to commend the Mental Health Commission for producing an interim report early because of the identified risks to children due to lack of clinical governance.
“These were escalated to the Chief Officer of the relevant CHO and in one case to the Assistant National Director, Head of Operations, Quality and Service Improvement in the HSE.
“However, when I raised this directly with the Minister in the Dáil late last year, she claimed that she was not informed by the HSE the nature of these risks.
“We need to see the reinstatement of the position of a National Director for Mental Health who is responsible, accountable and reports directly to the Minister.
“The HSE is currently conducting three national audits into CAMHS. It is concerning that the HSE has not found any risks significant enough to escalate to the Minister or to produce an interim report so they can put the appropriate measures in place.
“The report found serious concerns and consequent risks for some patients across areas of four out of five Community Healthcare CAMHS. The one area that passed with flying colours is an area where the CAMHS service is delivered by an independent provider.
“What a damning indictment of the HSE.
“I am calling for the Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler to have a debate in the Dáil after the publication of an interim report by the Mental Health Commission, and that the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee meet urgently with the HSE to discuss the crisis in children’s mental health.
“It is clear that CAMHS is not working and that an urgent strategy is needed to tackle the crisis.”
The report can be read here.