I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation. I do not intend to read through the script because it has been furnished to members. I asked the committee secretariat to invite officials from the Department to attend this meeting. I am not using them as a screen to keep me safe, but to help me to respond to the direct questions that members may wish to ask. I will not respond from a prepared script.
Ms Bairbre Nic Aonghusa is the director of this policy area in the Department of Health and Children. She is free to take questions. Mr. Brian Gilroy, who is involved in the national management of the HSE, is heading up the capital programme. It is fair to say he has been most proactive in that regard. In a few minutes, I will have great pleasure in outlining the details of the capital programme as announced on 1 March last. All of the issues that seem to bedevil us will be put to bed today. I will comment on whether the fund, which was worth €40 million last year, will be worth €43 million or €50 million next year. I would welcome questions on the capital programme.
Mr. Martin Rogan, who is the HSE's newly appointed director for mental health, was introduced the last day. We are delighted to have him in place. His brief is to drive the A Vision for Change reform programme. Rather than doing a presentation, I will invite members to ask questions. Mr. John Saunders is in charge of Shine. He has been a shining light in the Department in trying to deal with the stigma associated with these issues. I take great pleasure in mentioning that he did a great deal of work in recent months in advance of last week's launch of the See Change campaign.
I thank the committee for giving me an opportunity to update members on the progress made with the A Vision for Change reform programme. I acknowledge that the National Service Users Executive, the establishment of which was first recommended in A Vision for Change, has publicly recognised that progress has been made with the reform programme. I hasten to add that it would like more progress to be made. That is what we are about. I am pleased to say that since our last meeting, Mr. Rogan has started to engage with the 14 regional directors who have been appointed in the mental health area. It is important that Mr. Rogan and the 14 regional directors are working together to ensure the commitments and recommendations set out in A Vision for Change can become a reality within the relevant timeframe.
The last time I addressed this committee, a number of members, including Deputies Kathleen Lynch and Jan O'Sullivan, asked about child and adolescent mental health beds. It is important for me to clarify that matter. Deputy Neville asked why Limerick was left out. I would like to try to bring some clarity to that area. The issue of child and adolescent beds is recognised within the Department as a priority. It is fair to point out that the briefing document I have supplied, which I do not intend to read in its entirety, makes it clear that 55 child and adolescent mental health teams are in place and a further eight teams are in development.
The number of inpatient beds for children and young people has more than doubled, to 30, since 2007. New 20-bed child and adolescent units are under construction in Cork and Galway. The target we have set is to have 20 beds in each of Galway, Cork, the Dublin-Leinster region and the north-west region. I appreciate that the number of such beds will not add up to 100, as previously envisaged. When those 80 beds have been put in place, we will see where the demands are. I do not envisage the development of 20 child and adolescent mental health beds in Limerick. I am sure Deputy Neville will have something to say about that. It is possible that the 80 beds I have mentioned will meet the need that exists. I should mention that shorter episodes of inpatient care have been achieved and 50% of discharges occur within two weeks of admission. There are fewer involuntary admissions.
I would like to speak briefly about the future of the Central Mental Hospital, which is important. We laid down a marker in that regard when we met Professor Kennedy and his colleagues. We indicated to them that we intend to proceed as quickly as possible with the development of a new hospital. I accept that certain interests in the Portrane-Donabate area were concerned that we had made a decision without telling them about it. I recently took the opportunity to make it clear to local Members of the Oireachtas and representatives of the local community council that no decision on the location of the new facility has been taken. Some time ago, the Cabinet gave us clearance to pursue the provision of a new Central Mental Hospital by means of public private partnership, PPP. When the PPP is stacked up later this year, as I hope it will be, we will be in a position to make an announcement on the location of the hospital. I do not see any point in going down that road until the arrangements have been firmed up.
Executive clinical directors have been appointed to lead reforms in catchment areas with populations of between 350,000 and 400,000 people. There have been significant improvements in the national forensic mental health service. It now offers consultant-led inreach clinics to all prisons within reach of Dublin. It also provides an assessment and liaison service for all prisons across the State. The prison inreach and court liaison service won the overall prize, an duais mhór, and the prize for best hospital project at the 2009 Irish health care awards. The service actively seeks to divert people from the criminal justice system to local psychiatric services.
In the context of child and adolescent facilities, it is important that we start to reconsider how funds are spent within the Department. I agree that we need to prioritise funding to facilitate early intervention. As we all know, 70% of mental health issues begin in the child and adolescent years. I am pleased to say that a number of submissions have been received from people like Dr. Tony Bates, who heads up the Headstrong and Jigsaw service, and Professor Éadbhard O'Callaghan of the DETECT programme. Last week, the Department sanctioned the development of a Jigsaw project in Roscommon, in addition to the existing projects in Galway and Ballymun. It is important to emphasise that Jigsaw projects are seen as popular, successful and working interventions. Young people and others who present themselves to Jigsaw projects are dealt with in an open and warm forum that is working well. When they present their issues in a cosy environment — they might not do so until their second or third day there — they receive professional care that is co-funded by the HSE. The figures in Galway prove not only that people are attending the Jigsaw facility there, but also that they benefit from constant follow-up services.
I thank Mr. Declan Ryan, of the Tony Ryan aviation group, for that company's involvement as the main proposer and sponsor in this regard. The project might not be as successful without that financial help and commitment. I assure the committee that the Department is equally committed. In that context, we have been invited to make a presentation to the Cabinet sub-committee on health shortly. I hope we will be able to put in place five similar Jigsaw projects throughout the country next year. We will try to reach the target of providing 20 similar facilities throughout the country by 2016. The clear outputs associated with these projects are recognised. More importantly, all of the Jigsaw activities are independently gauged and their success or otherwise is checked.
It is clear that the old mental hospitals — one can call them psychiatric hospitals or whatever else one wants — are creating huge problems for the public. As far as I am concerned, they will be mental hospitals until they are closed. They remind us all of a bygone day. When we came before this committee last November, we promised we would make an announcement at Farmleigh on 1 March. We have done that. I have proposed that on 1 March each year, the relevant Minister or Minister of State should set out the multi-annual programme for the year to come. While it is obvious that the permanent people — Mr. Gilroy and his colleagues — will definitely be here, I cannot say that about ourselves. Last March, we made a commitment to ring-fence a multi-annual figure of €15 million with regard to the sale of properties. I suppose the concept of ring fencing is often challenged, but we are satisfied that last year's Budget Statement provided for closure of the remaining hospitals within a three-year timeframe.
We went to Clonmel a few weeks ago to announce the closure of St. Luke's Hospital. We are spending €10 million. The contracts have been signed. We went to Letterkenny two weeks ago to sign the contract for the turning of the sod and the construction of a new acute psychiatric unit there. We are pleased to say that both projects are in train, in line with commitments made last year. An application for planning permission for a new acute unit at Beaumont Hospital will be made in June. We should be pleased that all acute services will be transferred to the new unit when it is up and running. That will signal the end of new intake into St. Ita's Hospital in Portrane.
I am particularly pleased to say that later this year, there will be no new admissions to Grangegorman for the first time since 1815. I pay particular tribute to the staff of the Department of Health and Children, who have worked around the moratorium, or embargo, to make these changes happen. Later in this meeting, Ms Nic Aonghusa will speak in detail about our successful discussions with the Department of Finance, which will ensure that nurses will be provided as required to work in the new facilities. There will be no further admissions to Grangegorman in 2010, as we prepare to move to the new purpose-built unit at Blanchardstown.
I refer to part of the inspector's reports. One thing that damns us all is the lack of progress in mental health reform. Quite properly, the inspector each year lists the hospitals that are not fit for habitation. It is up to us to make progress with that. I am pleased to mention St. Loman's Hospital and Grangegorman. We can now put Mullingar into the mix. We are aware that St. Brigid's ward in Mullingar was mentioned in last year's report. We are pleased to say that a contractor will be on site shortly to construct new nursing units at St. Mary's Hospital in Mullingar, thereby bringing an end to the difficulties associated with St. Brigid's ward in line with the commitment we made last year under the capital programme. We all wish to assist those living in older hospitals, who deserve nothing less than their closure. Our commitment is to ensure we drive the programme on. It can be done by means of the capital programme, the sale of assets and the use of voluntary and social housing, on which we are presently working in conjunction with the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran. A presentation will be made at Cabinet level shortly. The next time we address the committee, we will have further progress to relate.
I am delighted to announce the creation of a €3 million innovation fund for disabilities and mental health to support the transition from institutional to person-centred models of care. When facilities are being closed but accommodation has not yet been found for a small number of people, the innovation fund will help us to meet ongoing costs until alternative accommodation can be provided. I should mention that although my brief relates primarily to mental health, I have a clear brief with regard to disabilities. I am looking forward to producing an equivalent to A Vision for Change in the disability sector by December of this year. We will make commitments on employment, housing, jobs, transport and access. We hope to come before the committee in September to outline our three-year plan for the delivery of the commitments in Towards 2016 and the national disability strategy.
The €3 million funding I mentioned a moment ago has been allocated to Genio, which is a non-profit organisation that supports self-determination, inclusion and equality for disadvantaged and vulnerable people. I attended its conference yesterday at the Mansion House. I pay particular tribute to Ms Madeleine Clarke, whom I met yesterday. She has worked on this initiative with officials, including Ms Nic Aonghusa, from my Department. Genio has established a fund with assistance from Atlantic Philanthropies to support the transition from traditional group-based services to more effective individualised person-centred supports. The €3 million allocation reflects the importance of the partnership that has developed in recent years between the Government and the philanthropic sector in driving the reform of our disability and mental health sector. In addition to managing the fund, as part of the project Genio will provide learning opportunities for those interested in leading and managing change and support people with disabilities and mental health problems to advocate for services which meet their demands. Before I start the final part of the presentation, it is fair to make the point that as a result of the combined work of the HSE, the Department of Health and Children and the voluntary sector, new streams of funding are being sourced and put to proper use.
I will conclude by speaking about the See Change campaign. I thank those members who attended the launch of the campaign, about which I spoke at a meeting of this committee some months ago, including Deputy Neville, Deputy Ó Caoláin, Deputy O'Connor, Senator Mary White and Deputy Conlon. Regardless of the amount of funding secured from the Government and the capital programmes that are put together, we are on a hiding to nothing if we do not break the stigma that attaches to mental health. In advance of last week's launch, we worked for a number of months to bring the See Change programme together. I publicly thank the many people who were involved in that process. When people look back in years to come, they will learn that many people came together of their free will and on their own time to change our attitude towards mental health. Not only will this programme succeed within two years, but it will generate sufficient interest over the following years to ensure it is seen as a major attempt to reduce the number of people who die by suicide here. That is really what the plan is about.
The second issue is to try to help people to understand that a mental health problem is not really a big issue. It is a matter of having the cop-on, in the first instance, to get looked after. Our challenge is to ensure people do not have a hang-up about that. That is what we are trying to do.
I thank Mr. John Saunders, in particular. I cannot thank him enough for all the work he has done in recent months. I will not waste the committee's time by mentioning everything he has done — members can check the See Change website if they wish. The work involved is there to be seen. Mr. Saunders developed many contacts and made a great effort to bring all the groups together with one goal in mind — to reduce suicides and normalise the issue of mental health. I applaud him on the invaluable contacts he made, many of whom came on board to help us. I pay particular thanks to Miriam O'Callaghan from RTE. When we rang her, she had no difficulty with fronting the campaign. Eileen Dunne of RTE also spoke on the day. I also thank Paddy McGowan, who is a lecturer in DCU, and Deputy Neville, who is the president of the Irish Association of Suicidology.
The campaign video, which will continue to be in place for years to come, will create huge awareness and offer a platform for people to become involved. I thank those who feature in the video, including Claire Byrne, who is a broadcaster with Newstalk 106; the comedian Barry Murphy; the actor Risteárd Cooper; the Olympian and world champion, Eamonn Coughlan; the Olympic boxer, Mick Dowling; the RTE Gaelic games commentator, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh; the RTE sports reporter, Colm Murray; the champion jockey, Johnny Murtagh; and the BBC golf broadcaster, Shane O'Donoghue. I thank other people in my Department who worked almost every second Wednesday to bring this programme together. I refer to Ms Bairbre Nic Aonghusa, Ms Dora Hennessy, Ms Sandra Walsh, Ms Elizabeth Heffernan, Ms Margaret McGuinness and Ms Pamela Carter.
I thank the group of people I brought together almost 15 months ago at the start of this campaign. I refer to those who gave us the ideas. They worked privately and did not look for public notice. I refer to Ms Fiona Crowley of Amnesty, Ms Karol Balfe of Amnesty, Dr. Tony Bates of Headstrong, Mr. John Treacy, Mr. Ossie Kilkenny, Dr. Justin Brophy, Mr. John Saunders, Mr. Martin Rogan, Mr. Anthony Muldoon of the Union of Students in Ireland, Dr. John Hillery, Mr. Geoff Day, Mr. Tom Kelly, Mr. Ruairí McKiernan of SpunOut, Professor Kevin Malone of the three Ts campaign, Dr. Freda O'Connell, Mr. Noel Smith, Mr. John Fitzmaurice, the singer, Ms Frances Black, Mr. John McCarthy and Mr. Martin McGinn. I hope the joint committee will promote all aspects of the See Change programme, the objectives of which are to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems; to challenge discrimination; to create an environment in which people are more open and positive in their attitudes and behaviour towards mental health; to promote greater understanding of, acceptance of and support for people with mental health problems; and to empower individuals with experience of mental health problems to gain equality, respect and rights.
The campaign has been launched. It is on the website. We intend to have town hall meetings across the country to get people involved. I do not refer to amateurs but to people like Mr. John Saunders. It will not be people like me. Professional people will explain to the public that it should be normal to look after oneself. We will involve local radio and local media and tap into certain resources. It is important for us to rise to this challenge. Attitudes can be changed. As an undertaker, I have been aware of so many funerals following suicides over the years that I feel this is important. I am not being flippant when I say that politicians are accused far too often of not addressing issues like suicide. People all around me have a huge interest in all of this. We cannot bring about a change unless the media acts as a partner in this regard. The launch was excellent and I was banking on the media who were present to publicise it. However, there was not a line of comment on the overall challenge and I am disappointed at that. Unless we all partner on this initiative we will have little effect and will bring about little change. See Change can transform attitudes to mental health and provide the people who have suffered over the years with the comfort of knowing that they need not suffer in silence and need not take the ultimate step, which creates great hurt and torment in families.
I thank the Chairman for giving us the opportunity to come before the committee every few months. We always hope members ask us rigorous questions so that it is made clear that what we are talking about is not made up. It is important for people to challenge us so that we can respond.