Press Release

Tánaiste Announces the full implementation of the Mental Health Act 2001

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, today (6 July, 2006) announced that all remaining provisions of the Mental Health Act, 2001 will be brought into operation on 1 November, 2006. The Act provides inter alia for a system of independent review by mental health tribunals of all involuntary admissions to mental health services.

The Tánaiste said: “this represents a major step forward in the development of our mental health services. The introduction of mental health tribunals to review all involuntary admissions represents an important step in the protection of the interests of people who suffer from mental disorders.”

“The HSE, the Mental Health Commission and my Department are currently finalising preparations to ensure the smooth transition of the new arrangements under the Act.”

The Tánaiste thanked the HSE and the Mental Health Commission for their work to date in this important area. “I look forward to the full implementation of the Act, which will have a major positive impact on the lives of a vulnerable group in our society.”

Mental Health Commission’s Annual Report

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, was speaking on the occasion of the launch of the Mental Health Commission’s Annual Report for 2005 which includes the Report of the Inspector of Mental Health Services.

The Tánaiste said: “I would like to welcome the Annual Report of the Mental Health Commission and the Office of the Inspector of Mental Health Services. Since their establishment in 2002, they have made an important contribution to the continued improvement of services for people with mental illness.”

The report highlights a number of areas that are of continued concern in mental health services, namely the standard of long stay accommodation for people with severe and enduring illness and the need for multidisciplinary teams to support people in the community.

These areas have been given a central focus in “A Vision for Change” – the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Services which was published in January this year. “A Vision for Change” recommends a major refocusing of services from psychiatric hospitals to community based facilities. There will be very significant costs associated with this transformation of services. This will be funded by the sale of lands of psychiatric hospitals. The Tánaiste said “the Health Service Executive (HSE) has been asked to identify, as a matter of urgency, lands which could be disposed of in order to continue this process.”

The HSE has set up an implementation group to ensure a timely and coordinated response to the report’s recommendations. My colleague, Mr Tim O’Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for mental health, has set up an independent monitoring group to oversee the progress of the implementation of the recommendations in “A Vision for Change”.

The Tánaiste said: “This year we are investing an additional €26.2 million in mental health services, bringing the annual expenditure on mental health services to over €800 million.”

Notes

The recommendations in “A Vision for Change”, which have been accepted by the Government, propose a holistic view of mental illness and recommend an integrated multidisciplinary approach to addressing the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to mental health problems. It recommends 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 services users and their carers. Interventions should be aimed at maximising recovery from mental illness, and build on the resources within service users and within their immediate social networks to allow them to achieve meaningful integration and participation in community life.

Sections 1 to 5, 7 and 31 to 55 of the Mental Health Act 2001 were commenced in April 2002. These involved the establishment of the Mental Health Commission to promote, encourage and foster the establishment and maintenance of high standards and good practice in the delivery of mental health services and to protect the interests of people detained under the 2001 Act. It also provided for the establishment of the Office of the Inspector of Mental Health Services (replacing the former Inspector of Mental Hospitals).

Currently people can be involuntarily admitted under the provisions of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. Under this legislation people who are involuntarily admitted have a limited avenue of appeal. Under Part 2 of the Mental Health Act 2001 (to be commenced on 1 November, 2006) there will be an automatic independent review of all involuntary admissions by a Mental Health Tribunal.