When the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care was convened, as part of its Terms of Reference it recognised that the Department of Health was simultaneously conducting a refresh of the national mental health policy, ‘A Vision for Change’. A major review was undertaken to include recent policy recommendations and all submissions to the Joint Oireachtas Committee were coded with relevant actions embedded in the Vision for Change refresh.
It is anticipated that the final report of the Vision for Change refresh will be completed in the coming weeks. The refresh has looked at a comprehensive range of interventions, including increased access to counsellors and psychologists providing a range of talking therapies - appropriate to the majority of mental health presentations encountered in primary care, and will make recommendations in these areas.
The Government currently invests in the provision of Talk therapies, and there are a range of services already available.
The HSE National Counselling Service within GP practices and primary care teams offers access to time-limited counselling to adults presenting in primary care with non-complex psychological needs.
The Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) service offers counselling sessions for medical card holders, who are 18 years of age or over, and who need help with mild to moderate psychological issues that can be appropriately dealt with by time-limited counselling in a primary care setting.
Funding has also been provided for Psychologist and Assistant Psychologist posts in primary care to deliver rapid access low intensity psychological interventions for those under 18 years of age.
The HSE is implementing two tele-counselling pilot projects. These are being provided to service users that have been identified by GPs as potentially benefitting from counselling for mild to moderate mental health difficulties. These service users are being offered the opportunity to avail of free online counselling at a location of their choice.
The HSE is also undertaking two tele-psychiatry pilots to address CAMHS waiting lists and provide remote consultations on the national adolescent addiction and substance abuse service.
In tandem with this I am aware that HSE Mental Health has engaged with a leading international provider of instant text messaging support services with a view to establishing such a service in Ireland. HSE is working closely with partner NGOs to act as a host/incubator organisations for the service, which will initially be rolled out on a pilot basis.
In addition, there is a number of Voluntary and Community Sector organisations that provide a range of talking therapies and related supports, through a service level agreement with the HSE, to individuals experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems. These can be broadly targeted or relevant to particular constituencies of need and age ranges. These supports are an important component of psychological and social recovery services available at local level.