Friday 15 December 2017

Irish teen girl who is 'very distressed' undergoing treatment in England due to shortage here

Irish teen girl who is 'very distressed' undergoing treatment in England due to shortage here
Irish teen girl who is 'very distressed' undergoing treatment in England due to shortage here

Tim Healy

A 17-YEAR old girl who is in a psychiatric hospital in England is "very distressed" she may not be able to return home due to a delay in finding a suitable placement here for her, the High Court heard.

The girl, who has condition on the autism spectrum, was due to return next month.

Directing a special hearing of the matter later this month, Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon said she "clearly needs a place" and the matter is urgent.

She has been in the English hospital since last November, was considered suitable for discharge some months ago and told she would be home in August. However,  there is now considerable doubt about that, the court heard.

The girl, her mother and guardian are very concerned about delay on the part of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) in finding or designing a suitable placement for her, their lawyers told the judge. 

A psychologist with expertise in autism who carried out an independent assessment of the girl is concerned, due to the uncertainty and delay in finding or designing an appropriate placement, she will end up "in crisis" and in adult psychiatric care "where she should not be", counsel for the guardian said.

That psychologist believes the best placement for her is in a unit near Dublin which may not be available until early next year, it was stated.

A unit in the south of the country was mentioned but may not be available for some time and the girl opposed that as too far from her family and friends and had threatened to run away if put there, the court heard.

The psychologist believed the southern proposal would not work.

The guardian believed the CFA should arrange a meeting of the professionals involved so the psychologist could outline why he believed a place in a unit near Dublin was so important for the girl.

Felix McEnroy SC, for the CFA, said his side's doctor took a different view based on the perspective of what is available in this State.

Counsel said various reports were being provided to the court and the matter should be adjourned for intensive welfare review. This was not an ordinary case and was a "mental health case", he said.

Teresa Blake SC, for the girl's mother, said she has "a very different position" from the CFA and disagreed with the characterisation by Mr McEnroy SC of this as "a mental health case".

This is "not a mental health case" and rather involves an issue of autism spectrum disorder, counsel said.

Ms Blake said the case was very similar to one recently before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan where the CFA initially applied to keep an 18-year-old woman with borderline personality disorder in a psychiatric hospital in England against her wishes.

After dozens of court hearings, the CFA earlier this month withdrew its application to have that woman kept in the English facility. She returned to Ireland recently but there are similar difficulties and delays in finding an appropriate place for her here.

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