Saturday 17 August 2019

Vulnerable woman to be detained in secure psychiatric unit after court tells HSE to devise a 'better plan'

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

Tim Healy

A vulnerable young woman is to be detained in a secure hospital psychiatric unit after the High Court told the HSE it must devise a better plan for her than a "completely substandard" arrangement under which she was leaving an open unit and regularly accessing street drugs.

Earlier this week, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said, because the woman is ward of court, he is responsible for her safety and the HSE had to urgently come with a better proposal than open unit, a rehabilitation unit for people with long term mental illness. It was not suitable and she “could end up dead”, he said.

A HSE proposal that the woman remain at the unit with a dedicated key worker for eight hours weekly is not a solution, he said.

A situation where the woman, aged in her early thirties with a difficult family background and described as having grown up on the streets, can leave the unit unsupervised and access and misuse street drugs – mainly benzodiazepines - cannot continue, he said.

He was told the woman has herself identified the difficulties with her taking drugs and is conscious she is placing herself in a precarious position. The drug taking may be “a cry for help” from her, he was told.

Among the difficulties is that the open unit is close to the woman’s home area and that, when she returns there, she appears to have easy access to drugs.

The woman herself had expressed a desire to be “locked in” in the hospital unit as then she would not go home where it was “very easy” to get the tablets.

When the case returned before the judge on Thursday, he heard psychiatric and other evidence.

On foot of that, he made orders directing the woman be transferred from the open unit to the hospital unit as soon as practicable and detained there pending further order.

The order permits the medical and nursing staff with clinical responsibility for the woman to administer such medication, including anti-psychotic medication, as they consider appropriate to promote and protect her life, health and well-being.

It also permits gardai to search for, arrest and return the woman to the hospital if she absconds from there.

The woman’s social welfare allowance is to be paid to the general solicitor for wards of court who has discretion concerning what sums should be provided to the woman out of that.

The woman had told social workers she wanted control of her entire allowance for purposes including buying clothes and cigarettes but they had concerns she would not be able to manage her money and would use it to buy drugs.

When she was living in the open unit, some of the allowance money went towards rent for that unit and it also allocated €15 to her daily.

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