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Increase in age range and 'crisis cafés' in plan for adolescent mental health services



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Copyright: Karel Miragaya

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The age range for eligibility to child and adolescent mental health services is to be increased from 18 to 25 years.

A new plan said extending eligibility for this service to 25 would improve continuity of care and lead to better outcomes. But it will take years before it can happen.

'Sharing the Vision - a Mental Health Policy for Everyone', which sets out how mental health services should develop in the next decade, was launched without costings.

Minister for State Jim Daly, who had responsibility for mental health, and Health Minister Simon Harris promised it would improve health promotion, prevention and early intervention. It should also improve service access, co-ordination and continuity of care, social inclusion and accountability.

It would also have an implementation 'roadmap', they said.

The mental health service continues to struggle with long waiting times, particularly for children and adolescents.

The plan envisages more use of online telepsychiatry instead of face-to-face consultation.

It proposes the use of "crisis cafés" where people who are in mental distress can go to as an alternative to hospital A&E.

It says: "While individuals are in many cases appropriately seen in an emergency department, it can be a challenging environment for some people with mental health difficulties.

"Out-of-hours crisis cafés are proposed as a new referral option, to support individuals to deal with an immediate crisis and to plan safely, drawing on their strengths, resilience and coping mechanisms to manage their mental health and well-being.

"Attendees would be able to access talk therapies, coping strategies and one-to-one peer support, provided by paid core staff assisted by a team of appropriately trained volunteers, working on a rota basis."

The cafés may reduce demands on emergency departments by providing an environment more suited to the needs of some individuals.

In response, the Psychiatric Nurses Association said there cannot be a repeat of the last strategy 'Vision for Change' which were never realised "because of haphazard implementation of many of its key recommendations and lack of political will, and ownership at HSE level, to achieve its goals".

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said it fails to address critical staffing deficits. It said the policy is "aspirational and does not address real pressures on the system".

John Saunders, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, called for full implementation to move care out of the shadows of the past.

Irish Independent