WITH 245 children waiting for the service, the three Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) teams in Limerick are struggling with staff shortages in key positions.
In addition to three vacancies for Speech and Language Therapists, the Limerick CAMHS service is also missing cover for a social worker and two psychologists who are on maternity leave.
A spokesman for the HSE confirmed the reduced staffing levels on foot of a query from the Limerick Post after a Limerick TD launched a scathing attack on the depletion of the service.
Deputy Maurice Quinlivan (SF) called for increased and targeted investment to help ease soaring waiting lists for access to CAMHS.
“The service continues to suffer from underfunding and a recruitment and retention crisis. The situation in Limerick especially is extremely worrying.
“At the end of October there were 2,250 children and young people waiting to access CAMHS services nationwide, 245 of these were in the area that includes Limerick City.
“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.
“These waiting periods are simply unacceptable and they put people at very serious risk.
“The reason there is such a backlog for access to these services is that CAMHS is not being adequately funded and the area is suffering from the government’s inability to address the recruitment and retention crisis.
“In 2006 the government published an expert mental health report called A Vision For Change which mapped out the future of mental health care and service provision.
“However, figures released to me by the HSE show that CAMHS have only 57 per cent of the staff necessary under A Vision for Change. Here in Limerick the situation is just as poor as we have only 68.9 per cent of the necessary staff.
“The figures also show there are 12 full-time, or whole-time equivalent, CAMHS posts vacant across our area”, Deputy Quinlivan said.