I wish the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Helen McEntee, every success in her new brief. I am sure she and the Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who is seated beside her, will do very well. I thank her for coming to the House to deal with this sensitive issue.
The provision of early intervention mental health supports and services for young people in Carlow is in a state of crisis. The Carlow regional youth service offers an early intervention counselling service and runs two projects. The first of these, the Folláine counselling service, offers one-to-one support for vulnerable young people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives. Unfortunately, in the past eight weeks, two 14 year old boys have died by suicide in Carlow town. This has had a devastating impact on our whole community and placed an unprecedented demand on the regional youth service support services.
In 2015, the Folláine counselling service worked with 103 young people. As of 27 May 2016, a further 76 young people had engaged with the service this year and the waiting list for an appointment currently stands at 12 weeks. The leading presenting issues are anxiety, emotional difficulties, depression, self-harm and bereavement. These issues are more acute for young people than in previous years and interventions are taking longer. As a result, the Carlow regional youth service can no longer accept new referrals for Folláine. With the exception of the psychological service and child and adult mental health services, CAMHS, Folláine is the only support service that provides early intervention support for mental health and well-being in young people in Carlow town, which has a population of approximately 22,000. The service currently receives funding of approximately €30,000 per annum or €400 per client.
The second project run by the Carlow regional youth service is the YARC project. To date, 47 young people have been referred for one-to-one support to YARC. This is an increase of 50% on the same period last year and again the presenting issues are more acute and require longer intervention. In 2015, the two YARC project workers worked with 70 young people, with September being the busiest month. Both the YARC and Folláine projects have had effective outcomes for their clients, including return to mainstream education, improved emotional resilience and progression to mainstream youth work opportunities.
Based on previous experience, September is also the busiest month for the Folláine counselling service. It is estimated that an additional 65 young people will require support from Folláine in 2016. Additional funding of €26,000 is required for this purpose. To continue to offer the services of the YARC project, the Carlow regional youth service urgently requires an additional youth worker to meet current demand for mental health services for young people in Carlow town. This would cost approximately €48,000 per annum.
I am extremely concerned about the lack of services available to support the emotional health and well-being of young people in Carlow. Existing organisations are best placed to respond quickly and effectively to the current and future early intervention needs in the town. These services support and alleviate demand on the Health Service Executive and Tusla specialist services.
The Carlow regional youth service is a complementary service provided to schools and also offers other statutory services. It was not established to replace HSE or TUSLA services. As matters stands, it cannot accept further new referrals with its current level of funding.
A task force is required in Carlow to address the current difficulties in the town. In addition to the two young people who recently died by suicide, two adults died by suicide in Carlow in recent weeks. Unfortunately, Carlow has the third highest rate of suicide by area of residence. Recent figures show that the area's suicide rate stood at 15.7 per 100,000 compared with a national rate of 11.3 per 100,000.
On 24 May, Carlow regional youth service hosted a meeting which was addressed by the psychologist, Dr. Eddie Murphy, and attracted more than 300 concerned parents. I ask the Minister of State to examine the issues I have raised and ensure additional funding is found for early intervention services and the establishment of a task force in Carlow.