independent

Friday 26 April 2019

Vulnerable mental health sufferers abandoned by state, committee finds

Cllr Tony Walsh
Cllr Tony Walsh

David Looby at Wexford Co Council monthly meeting

The head of a council sub-committee tasked with investigating mental health services in Co Wexford has concluded that they have been abandoned and is calling for an independent review as a matter of urgency.

Cllr Tony Walsh said the committee has determined the extent of services available within the county.

'The services have been abandoned and have been farmed out of the county.'

He said the committee reviewed HSE responses to calls for further supports for mental health services in Co Wexford, determining that services were ultimately streamlined causing the county to lose out. 'We interviewed parents of children with mental health difficulties and it was harrowing. We had individuals' accounts of their experiences in the Department of Psychiatry in Waterford and it gave a Victorian feel to mental health in this day and age.'

The report highlights ways more proactive measures can be taken to support Wexford teenagers in crisis. 'We discovered projects that are in place at the moment that are working very well for a small group of teenagers.'

The committee comprising councillors Ger Carthy, Willie Fitzharris, Tom Forde, Davy Hynes, Robert Ireton, Willie Kavanagh, Johnny Mythen, Frank Staples and Tony Walsh concluded that a report needs to be commissioned to uncover 'the state of the adult and child mental health services in Co Wexford'.

'We feel it needs to be done quickly because of the speed at which services are being dismantled. We need to have a look at providing a 24/7 psychiatric unit with appropriate bed capacity. An expert report is needed.'

Cllr Walsh said Arden House, which is replacing Slaney House in Wexford for child and adult mental health services, will not open now until September.

Calling for the centre to be full staffed, Cllr Walsh said Wexford County Council should work in collaboration with other bodies to build resilience among Wexford teenagers and children.

'It would be a great investment which would reduce the high level of costs which are running into the millions at the moment,' he said.

Cllr Willie Kavanagh said: 'Seeing as we are coming to the end of our (five year) term I would hope this council is not putting this (report) in filing cabinets to gather dust and that the incoming council will continue the work of this subcommittee to push for a 24/7 psychiatric unit, preferably on the grounds of Wexford General Hospital.'

Cllr David Hynes said the report highlights the fallout from the closure of St Senan's Psychiatric Hospital in Enniscorthy. 'They said it wasn't fit for purpose and now we're hearing reports from people who say University Hospital Waterford isn't fit for purpose. People said they would have rather have been anywhere but there.'

Cllr Hynes called for programmes to be initiated to help build resilience among teenagers 'to avoid some of the tragedies we are seeing'.

Cllr Marie Doyle congratulated the councillors on the report, adding that on a daily basis suicidal people are being turned away from Wexford General Hospital. 'They are being discharged and that is putting enormous pressure on their families,' she said.

Cllr Ireton called for the report to be sent to the Minister for Health. 'Funding has to be made available to create the services in this county that we need because what we have is an absolute joke, but it's a serious joke. We are among the tops rates of suicide. We were guaranteed when St Senan's was sold that the money would go towards a new centre but there is now will in the HSE to do this.'

He said people suffering from mental health issues come up against problems when it comes to accessing local authority housing. 'People are getting dislodged and displaced within the system. It stinks at the moment,' he said, before adding that more tragedies could happen in the county because of the lack of services; which have been sought for 15 years. Chairman Cllr Keith Doyle suggested that a deputation of councillors meet with the minister to debate their requests to improve the well-being of Wexford people.

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