Enhancement of the specialist CAMHS service, including improved access and reducing waiting lists, remains a priority for both the Government and the HSE.
The total number of children on the CAMHS Waiting List was around 2,606 at the end of April 2019. This was down from 2,711 in April 2018. The HSE has prioritised reducing both short- and long-term CAMHS waiting lists. This has helped to reduce the waiting lists of those waiting over 12 months, which has reduced from 352 in April 2018 to 316 in April this year. In April 2019 approximately 80% of young people were offered a first appointment within 12 weeks in community CAMHS settings
It is important to note that the number of referrals to CAMHS increased from around 12,800 referrals received in 2011 to around 18,100 referrals expected in 2019. Cases assessed by professionals as urgent are seen as a matter of priority.
The recent Budget provided an additional €55 million to progress new developments in mental health which brings overall HSE mental health funding to nearly €1 billion in 2019. This funding has helped to increase services available in this area.
There are now 70 CAMHS teams, compared to 49 in 2008, and 3 Paediatric Liaison Teams. All aspects of CAMHS nationally are being improved by the HSE under its annual Service Plans. This includes better out-of-hours and 7/7 day cover, progression of Day Hospital care, developing specialist teams such as Eating Disorders, and improved Prevention and Early Intervention services.
To this end, we have also tried to reduce demand on CAMHS. The HSE funds Jigsaw to provide early intervention mental health services which focus on the needs of 12-25 year olds. Their early intervention model provides tangible supports for young people at primary care level who have mild and emerging mental health difficulties. There are currently 13 Jigsaw Services in communities across Ireland providing mental health support to young people with 2 more sites in Wicklow and Tipperary expected to be opened in the next year .
In conjunction with the Department of Health and the HSE, I am progressing various initiatives to enhance CAMHS, and also to adopt a wider approach around Prevention and Early Intervention measures, designed to alleviate pressures on the specialist CAMHS service. These include maximising the impact of the additional Primary Care Assistant Psychologists recruited in 2018 to relieve pressures on CAMHS; roll-out by the HSE of various e-mental health pilot projects; and additional Psychiatric Nurse training places coming on-stream to help fill existing vacancies.
The Department of Health will continue to monitor CAMHS activity and staffing data. In addition, I have held meetings with, and sought further information from, the Chief Officers and Executive Clinical Directors of the CHOs specifically on CAMHS vacancies, with a view to improving the rate of recruitment for CAMHS staff.