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Mental Health Commission

Dáil Éireann Debate, Friday - 3 December 2021

Friday, 3 December 2021

Questions (138)

Martin Kenny

Question:

138. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Health if he has considered the recommendations in a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57837/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I and the Government welcome this recent report by the Mental Health Commission (MHC) and recognise the vital role the Commission plays in developing and improving our mental health services overall.

I met with the Commission earlier this month, prior to the report’s publication, and had a constructive discussion on its findings.

The report sets out the various challenges faced by people with mental health difficulties in the criminal justice system. These challenges can often extend beyond the capacity of specialist mental health services and require input from other sectors such as Primary Care, Addiction and Homeless services.

Sharing the Vision, our national mental health policy, is clear that people with mental health difficulties in the criminal justice system should have equal access to mental health services as the general population. Many of the recommendations made in this report are reflected in Sharing the Vision and Sláintecare.  Implementation of Sharing the Vision is being driven by the Independent National Implementation and Monitoring Committee.

Significant new investment has been provided for the development of the National Forensic Mental Health Service n Portrane. Sharing the Vision’s recommendations include the development of Intensive Care Rehabilitation Units and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units nationally and improving diversion to reduce the number of people with mental health difficulties within the criminal justice system. A review of acute bed capacity review for mental health service has commenced and will help to address the capacity issues in our forensic mental health services.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Health participate in a High-Level Interdepartmental Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of people in the criminal justice system. It has made considerable progress and has established three expert subgroups on diversion, prison and central mental hospital capacity and community throughcare. The taskforce is currently examining many of the challenges highlighted in the report and the MHC presented the report to the taskforce. The Taskforce aims to provide a high-level implementation plan for its recommendations by early 2022.

Everyone committed to prison is subject to a comprehensive medical assessment by the Prison Healthcare Team, which can include, as appropriate, a mental health assessment. This is used to develop an individual healthcare plan for the person while in custody.

Where necessary, individuals are referred to a forensic clinician or Prison Service Psychologist or both. In-reach mental health services are provided by the HSE’s National Forensic Mental Health Service, involving the provision of weekly forensic mental health sessions. This service is provided in all prisons throughout the country. These are led by Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists, supported by Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors, Community Psychiatric Nurses, and Social Workers.

There has been a progressive programme of expansion of consultant and support posts into the prisons system in recent years. The HSE has also invested in additional Prison In-Reach Teams to address the mental health needs of individuals within prisons, allied to developing a liaison service with the Courts.

The Government remains firmly committed to continuing to improve forensic mental health services. I am acutely conscious of the needs of those in the criminal justice system in terms of access to mental health services.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 127.
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