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People with mental illness being let down by Government – Ó Caoláin

24 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that exactly two years on from the publication of the State's mental health policy A Vision for Change far too little has been achieved by the Government which still allows mental health to remain "the most neglected sector of our health services". He slammed the HSE asset-stripping of buildings and lands of former psychiatric institutions as revealed in today's report from the Irish Psychiatric Association.

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader said, "Two years ago today A Vision for Change was published and it promised a new beginning in mental health. Progress since then has been far too slow and the reality is that people with mental illness are still being badly let down by Government. Mental health remains the most neglected sector of our health services.

"It is a scandal that Health Minister Harney and the HSE have failed to produce and to carry out an implementation plan for A Vision for Change. Essential improved services were promised but are not being provided and staff are not being appointed because of the HSE recruitment embargo, as highlighted by the Irish Mental Health Coalition. While additional funding for mental health was allocated in 2006 and 2007 there was no additional money in 2008. This is doubly damaging as it was revealed that nearly half of the €50 million allocated in 2006 and 2007 to implement A Vision for Change was spent in other areas.

"The unacceptable attitude to mental health that still pervades Government thinking is typified by their insistence on co-locating the new Central Mental Hospital with the proposed prison at Thornton Hall. This is against all advice from people working in the sector and flies in the face of any rights-based approach to people with mental illness.

"The Irish Psychiatric Association is to be commended for highlighting the asset-stripping by the HSE in selling off lands and buildings formerly in use for psychiatric institutions and in failing to plough this funding directly back into improved services for people with mental illness. This is a huge scandal in itself and it is especially damning that the site of a proposed psychiatric unit at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin is now to be allocated to one of Minister Harney's precious private for-profit 'co-located' hospitals.

"Despite all their fine words this Government is failing to deliver for people with mental illness. They must continue to be challenged on this until A Vision for Change is fully implemented." ENDS

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