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Outrage as Government accused of U-turn on mental health budget commitment

Mental Health Reform, the Psychiatric Nurses Association and Fianna Fáil have all hit out this evening.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

MENTAL HEALTH REFORM has this evening criticised the Government’s decision to invest just €15 million into services instead of the agreed €35 million.

Last week, Health Minister Simon Harris said he would allocate €35 million more to the mental health budget next year.

However, responding to a question by Fianna Fáil’s James Browne, Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said just €15 million would be available for 2017.

Director of advocacy group Mental Health Reform (MHR), Shari McDaid, told of her shock at the news and said the most vulnerable of Irish society would be hit.

She said: “I am shocked to hear that there is scope for just €15 million of additional spending for improvements in mental health care for 2017, given the overstretched and under-resourced state of our mental health system.

Mental health has not been shown parity of esteem, much less the priority it needs by this Government.

“We are seeking an urgent review of this Government decision to allow just 1.8% in additional spending in 2017 for mental health care improvements.”

Crisis

MHR have said that staffing levels for child and adolescent facilities are 48% below the recommended levels.

Meanwhile, they claim staff levels across the whole mental health sector is 21% lower than what it should be.

Investment

McDaid added: “More and more people of all ages are seeking support to recover from a mental health difficulty; more than 2,000 children and adolescents were waiting for a first appointment for mental health services in July of which 10% or 200 were waiting more than 12 months. Clearly more resources are needed at the coal face.”

PNA PROTESTS The Psychiatric Nurses Association at a protest earlier this year.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said it is extremely concerned about the budget revelations.

PNA general secretary  Peter Hughes said: “Unfortunately, we have become all too familiar to Budget Day announcements on mental health spending that have no basis in fact.

This year’s Budget appears to be another example of this with Minister McEntee now confirming that funding would be merely ‘initiated’ in 2017 and not all of it would be spent in that year’.

“The mental health budget is still trying to recover from years of cutbacks and those involved in mental health can be justifiably cynical of the statements from the Taoiseach and politicians… pledging support for mental health services and commitments to adequately invest in  the development of those services.”

james browne fianna fail James Browne said the lack of funding shows Fine Gael doesn't care about mental health. Source: Fianna Fáíl

Fianna Fáil’s James Browne has urged the Government to invest what is needed to bring the nation’s mental health services up to the desired levels.

He added: “Significant work is needed to bring our mental health services up to standard. “This cannot be achieved without adequate funding. Currently the Government is planning to increase mental health funding by a measly 1.6% in 2017, as opposed to a 7.4% funding increase across the health sector. This clearly shows that mental health services simply are not a priority for Fine Gael.”

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