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Children being turned away from mental health services because of staff shortages

Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow Stephen Donnelly has called on the Government to urgently address the gaps in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Wicklow.  There are currently only 60 staff working in the service, despite a recommendation that 102 be employed.

Deputy Donnelly made the comments after obtaining new information from the HSE which shows that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are understaffed right across the country, with an additional 460 staff needed to meet the criteria set out in the Government’s own ‘Vision for Change’ mental health policy.

“I am growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress being made in improving mental health services for children in Dublin South – East / Wicklow region.  The situation appears to be getting worse instead of better – every week I am contacted by parents who are deeply upset because they cannot get the care they need for their children”, said Deputy Donnelly.

“The staff who work in the CAMHS service are fantastic.  They go above and beyond what is expected of them.  The problem is the fact that they are working under extremely pressurised conditions.  The service is under so much pressure that it is now a regular occurrence for young adolescents and children to be sent to Emergency Departments as they cannot access the mental health services.  I understand that it has proven difficult to fill posts in the area, but the Minister and the HSE cannot delay any longer – we need more staff.

“A Vision for Change recommended a total of 102 staff across all community CAMHS teams in the Dublin South East / Wicklow region.  New information which is up to date as of October 2017 shows that there are just 60 staff in place.  These massive gaps are resulting in a completely disjointed service.  At the moment GPs are being forced to refer young people to the Emergency Department, which is a completely unsuitable environment for them. In fact, in many cases, they are sent back home, which causes additional stress not only for the young person themselves, but also for their parents.

“I have called on the Minister to consider introducing a 24 hour helpline for GPs to assist them in assisting young people and their parents who present with suicidal tendencies.  The current situation is simply not sustainable and we need the Government to step up to the mark on this.  It claims to be prioritising mental health issues, but there is very little evidence of this on the ground,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.

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