Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (704)

Mattie McGrath


704. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health his views on alcohol addiction (details supplied). [8345/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

With the approval of a Registered Medical Practitioner, a person may choose, on a voluntary basis, to be admitted to and treated in an approved Mental Health centre for a range of Mental Health issues including depression and self harm. A person may also access required supports in the community and it is recognised that a modern mental health service is best delivered in a community setting. In 2012 a special allocation of €35m was provided to primarily strengthen Community Mental Health Teams in both adult and children's mental health services and Budget 2013 provided a further €35m for the continued development of mental health services across a range of headings including the further ongoing development of community services.

Reach Out, Our National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention highlights the fact that alcohol and substance misuse are strongly related to deliberate self harm and suicidal behaviour. In order to counteract the harm caused by the use and misuse of alcohol, real and tangible proposals are currently being finalised on foot of the recommendations in the National Substance Misuse Strategy report, which was published last year. Following consideration by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and liaison with other Departments, my colleague, Minister of State Alex White T.D., intends to introduce specific proposals for consideration by the Government as soon as possible.

The Mental Health Act 2001 sets out the criteria for involuntary admission to approved centres. Subject to certain safeguards, a person may be involuntarily admitted to an approved centre and detained there on the grounds that he or she is suffering from a mental disorder. Section 8(2) of the Act is clear, however, that an involuntary admission cannot be authorised by reason only of the fact that the person is 'socially deviant' or 'addicted to drugs or intoxicants'. That does not mean that a person in either of these categories cannot be involuntarily admitted to or detained in an approved centre but for this to happen, the person must be deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder as defined in the Act.

The Deputy will be aware that a Steering Group set up to conduct an initial Review of the Mental Health Act 2001, published its Interim Report in June 2012. A copy of the Report is available on my Department's website at 'http://www.dohc.ie/publications/int_report_sg_reviewMHA.html'. During their consultation process, the Group received many representations regarding the detention process set out in the Act. The Group have recommended, inter alia, that a person should be detained for treatment as a last resort and that the Act should be underpinned by the least restrictive principle, stressing that the patient should not be detained longer than is absolutely necessary. It is also recommended that the revised Act should incorporate human rights focused guiding principles, with the autonomy principle being central to the detention provisions in the Act.

An Expert Group is now in place to conduct the second and substantial phase of the review of the Act and the Group's report is expected in quarter two 2013.