Press Release

Tánaiste and Minister O’Malley launch the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy

Mary Harney, Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and Tim O’Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today (24th January 2006) launched “A Vision for Change” – a new National Policy Framework for the mental health services.

The report, which was developed by the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, is the first comprehensive review of mental health policy since Planning for the Future was published in 1984. The Expert Group, which was appointed by Minister O’Malley in August 2003, was chaired by Professor Joyce O’Connor, President of the National College of Ireland, consisted of 18 widely experienced people drawn from a range of backgrounds within the mental health services. The report outlines an exciting vision of the future for mental health services in Ireland and sets out a framework for action to achieve it over the next 7-10 years.

The report proposes a holistic view of mental illness and recommends an integrated multidisciplinary approach to addressing the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental health problems. A person-centred treatment approach which addresses each of these elements through an integrated care plan, reflecting best practice, and most importantly evolved and agreed with both service users and their carers is recommended. This comprehensive mental health policy framework outlines a set of values and principles that will guide both Government and service providers as we proceed to develop and put in place a modern high- quality mental health service for our citizens” the Tánaiste said.

Substantial additional funding will be required to finance the implementation of this policy document. “I am pleased to confirm that in the estimates for 2006 an additional €25m has been allocated to the HSE for mental health services and I am confident that this level of investment will continue in the coming years” the Tánaiste stated.

Wide ranging consultation took place throughout the country in the development of this policy, drawing on the experience, perspectives and ideas of key stakeholders, interested agencies and concerned individuals. The findings from the consultation process provide a very clear indication of service users’ views in relation to the present state of the mental health services and how they should be developed in the future. “The necessity of involving service users and their carers in all aspects of service delivery was a key message and this is the foundation on which “A Vision for Change” was built” said Minister O’ Malley.

“A Vision for Change” makes clear recommendations on how the mental health services should be managed and organised in the future. These recommendations include the establishment of a National Mental Health Service Directorate and the reorganisation of the current Mental Health Catchment Areas. It also recommends the closure of all the remaining mental hospitals and the re-investment of resources realised as a consequence in the mental health services.

The closure of large mental hospitals and the move to modern units attached to general hospitals, together with the expansion of community services, has been Government policy since the publication of Planning for the Future in 1984. A number of the large mental hospitals around the country have already closed completely – Our Lady’s in Cork, St. Patrick’s in Castlerea, St. Columba’s in Sligo, St. Mary’s in Castlebar and Our Lady’s in Ennis. The re-organisation of services which these closures entailed resulted in more community facilities, new acute psychiatric units in some cases and an overall improvement for service users, their families and carers. The remaining hospitals, of which there are 15 in all, cater in the main for long-stay patients, many of whom are over 65 years of age.

Read the Press Briefing document

Read “A Vision For Change”.