I would like to assure the Deputy that addressing the health needs of homeless persons and improving their access to healthcare services are a priority for the Department of Health and the HSE.
Currently, health services for the homeless population are delivered by multiple providers including Statutory Services, Non-Government Organisations and charitable organisations. In addition to local Community Mental Health Teams and Acute Mental Health Units, HSE Mental Health Services have established Specialist Homeless Mental Health Teams, dedicated to meet the mental health needs of people who are homeless.
There are two Specialist Homeless Mental Health Teams located in Dublin, one in Cork and a dedicated mental health homeless team is currently being developed in Kerry.
The HSE is currently working on a service improvement project which focuses on improving mental health care pathways for people who are homeless. This project will create a stepped model of care to ensure the homeless population in Community Health Organisations 6, 7 and 9 receive timely access and appropriate mental health care which cater for their mental health needs. The model will establish clear mental health care pathways into, and between, primary care, addiction services and specialist mental health services and support mental health staff working within the NGO structures.
HSE Homeless Multidisciplinary Teams are established in each Community Health Organisation. These teams comprise nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health and addiction workers. These teams ensure that people who are homeless are linked with appropriate health and social care services.
Counselling is available to homeless persons through a national service, Counselling in Primary Care. Counselling is also available through the HSE Addiction Services and by HSE-funded Non-Government Organisations such as the Dublin Simon Community Sure Steps Counselling service and Merchants Quay Ireland. In 2018, the National Office for Suicide Prevention provided additional funding to the Dublin Simon service for a homeless-specific Out-of-Hours Counselling Service.
Families in emergency homeless accommodation have access to the all the services mentioned, in addition to the general mental health services that are available to all citizens. Most people with mental health problems can be treated by their GP, but when necessary, are referred to specialist HSE Mental Health Services.
Again, let me assure the Deputy that addressing the matter of persons and families in emergency homeless accommodation is priority for the Government and the mental health and wellbeing of each person is a particular concern for the Department of Health. For this reason, in 2016, the Department allocated €2 million New Development funding for mental health homeless services. This year, the Department apportioned an additional €1 million New Development funding to boost mental health provision across homeless, travellers, refugees and addiction services.