The Government is committed to providing the best possible mental health services to children. This commitment is reflected in Budget 2019 which gave an additional €55 million to progress new developments in mental health this year. This brings overall HSE mental health funding to €987 million, an increase of €276 million since 2012.
This funding has facilitated an increase in the number of CAMHS inpatient beds. In 2011 there were 52 beds; today there are 74 beds, including two high observation beds. However, bed capacity in the past twelve months has been reduced due to a number of factors, including but not limited to, difficulty in sourcing required staffing levels. Complexity of presenting cases is also a significant factor that affects bed capacity. Bed capacity in CAMHS In-Patient Units is currently operating at 44 of 74 in-patient beds nationally as of 28 of January 2019.
Difficulties in recruiting mental health staff are well-documented but significant efforts are underway to increase staffing. We have provided funding for an extra 130 Psychiatric Nurse Undergraduate places each year. We will see the benefits of this initiative in 2020/21.
The recent appointment by the HSE of 114 Assistant Psychologists and 20 Psychologists in Primary Care and 10 Advanced Nurse Practitioners directly into CAMHS, will help to reduce demand on the CAMHS service.
There are also plans for an additional 10 CAMHS Forensic Beds in the New Forensic Hospital due to open in 2020 bringing the total number of inpatient beds for CAMHS to 82.
I have worked with the HSE to introduce a number of new measures in the HSE Service Plan 2019. These will help to change the way we promote youth mental health and deliver services, with a particular focus on prevention and early intervention thus helping reduce pressures on the specialist CAMHS service. These initiatives include introducing new digital mental health services, improving supports for relevant sports, community and voluntary groups active in this area, and expanding out-of-hours CAMHS provision.