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Mental Health Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (545)

Alan Dillon

Question:

545. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Health the status of the implementation of the recommendations of the national youth mental health task force, in particular the youth mental health pathfinder project; if a pathfinder team is now in place; if so, the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61159/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The proposal to establish a cross-governmental youth mental health Pathfinder unit, with participation from the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, received Ministerial approval during the previous Government. Its establishment is a priority in the current Programme for Government.

The proposal is to formalise a new model for collaborative working within Government and place a Pathfinder unit on a statutory footing, through section 12 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. This section has not been used before.

Various administrative, budgetary, governance and legal arrangements need to be developed and agreed with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure a robust and workable model for the Pathfinder unit. The demands on both Departments during the pandemic have presented challenges to progressing the proposals. Nonetheless, the Department of Health has continued to engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to develop an implementation option that fully addresses these issues.

Officials from the Department of Health last met with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 8 July to discuss improving proposals for governance and legal arrangements. Since then, the Department of Health has worked with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the proposals for governance and legal arrangements. On 6 December these draft proposals were circulated to the Department of Education and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Once agreed, these will be submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Recommendations from the National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report to build an evidence base to inform the development of youth mental health policy and service delivery, and to develop policy to give effect to youth mental health priorities and objectives, will be taken on by the new unit subject to agreement on the proposals. The report’s other recommendations were incorporated into the service plans of lead agencies over the three year lifespan of the report, which concluded in December 2020. Implementation of recommendations includes: several online support projects were delivered to support online counselling, online CBT training and online signposting; schools have upskilled staff in mental health training and many disciplines have availed of mental health first aid training; early intervention projects such as perinatal training and family support projects have launched; and provision has been made in the forthcoming Mental Health (Amendment) Bill for 16- and 17-year olds to refuse or consent to their own mental health treatment.

The implementation of the Pathfinder project is a priority for me and I will continue to keep this matter under close review in the context of progressing Sharing the Vision.

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