That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to place mental health on parity with physical health; to improve the provision of mental health services; to increase the quality of care for those in mental health services; and to provide for related matters.
This Fianna Fáil Bill will help to address long-running deficiencies in Irish mental health services. The Mental Health Parity Bill 2017 addresses the inequality of mental health treatment by placing mental health and physical health at the centre of all the key decisions by the Department of Health. Serious issues have been identified in our mental health services and these remain to be resolved. A Vision for Change, first published in 2006, set out the big picture regarding the then state of our mental health services. Over a decade since its publication, however, many of its key recommendations remain to be implemented. It is clear that mental health well-being is not treated the same as physical health well-being by key decision makers in our health system. The Bill we are putting forward aims to address this problem by introducing a new provision which will compel senior decision makers in the Department of Health to treat mental health on a par with physical health. The most recent report into A Vision for Change, which was published last July, noted the importance of creating a parity of esteem between mental health and physical well-being. The Bill we are putting forward will help to achieve this. It recognises that poor mental health generally leads to a greater risk of poor physical health. It sets out a pathway for addressing staff shortages and other resourcing issues affecting our mental health services. It is imperative that all organisations within our health system need parity obligations and this Bill will help bring Ireland into line with international standards on the provision of mental health care.