Mental health services for young people in Limerick at crisis point

Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan

WITH more than a third of the young people in the Limerick Community Healthcare area waiting over a year for treatment, the government has been called on to address ongoing difficulties in accessing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The call came from Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan during a Dáil debate on a Private Member’s Bill to allocate more funding and resources to ensure that mental health services are fit for purpose.

“For far too long, mental health services for children and young people have been at crisis point and patients simply aren’t getting the timely, high-quality care that they deserve,” Deputy Quinlivan explained.

He also pointed to geographic inequalities in the service and said that last October, the Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) which Limerick is part of reported that 36 per cent of patients under 18 were waiting more than a year for psychological treatment.

However, in the CHO area that includes South County Dublin the number waiting for over a year was just three per cent.

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“The young people of the Mid West deserve better than this,” he declared.

“CAMHS do not have the resources to deal with the numbers of young people who are desperately seeking help and support. We need at least ten per cent of the health budget assigned to mental health services, as recommended in the Sláintecare report.”

The Limerick TD called for the introduction of full-time access to mental health services to be made available and spoke of the launch of a 24/7 de-escalation unit in Limerick on a trial basis next June.

“This new unit will allow for the triaging of mental health contacts by a team of paramedics, Gardaí and a mental health expert. If the Limerick trial proves to be successful, and I am confident it will, such a de-escalation model should be made available as a priority to all CHO areas of the State.”

“Last year, more than 3,000 people in Limerick used a free text service that offers anonymous mental health support to those who were in urgent need. Depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide were among the issues that were talked about through the service.

“Volunteer mental health organisations do a phenomenal job in Limerick. Too often they are the ones dealing with an out of hours crisis. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

“It is high time for the government to step up and commit to mental health services for children and adolescents, increase capacity and ensure sufficient expert staff are available so children no longer have to wait a year for vital appointments,” Deputy Quinlivan concluded.