Dr Mia McLaughlin, Irish Times Letters to the Editor – Mental Health Services: Children who need specialist CAMHS support deserve far better
The Irish Times Opinion section published a letter by Dr Mia McLaughlin, Joint-Chair of the College REFOCUS committee, in which she commented on a recent article by Health Correspondent, Paul Cullen, on the ED at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny.
While recognising the progressive and positive innovation and investment in ED services, Dr McLaughlin lamented the demoralising lack of parallel focus, progression and investment in mental health services, particularly CAMHS, as highlighted by Paul Cullen.
Read the letter in full below or on the Irish Times website here.
Sir, – It was very encouraging to read Paul Cullen’s article “Emergency department overcrowding: ‘People get left behind because there’s nobody at home’” (News, December 2nd) regarding St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny. The entire team, from general manager to all the front-line staff, are incredibly positive and energetic in the face of increasing demand and complexity.
The innovative ideas highlighted by my colleagues, Prof Garry Courtney and Dr Rory McGovern, combined with the massive increase in investment in recent years for both acute hospital services and older people’s community services, provide reassurance and hope.
However, it has also been demoralising to note the lack of proportionate investment in psychiatric services for the patients that I and other specialist psychiatrist colleagues treat and support.
The article highlights in particular several young people waiting for a child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) assessment.
Camhs is a service funded to assess and treat patients with moderate to severe mental illness. The majority of children and adolescents who present to the acute hospital with mental health presentations do not have a psychiatric illness but have psychological distress. As such they do not need a Camhs assessment and should instead, in the first instance, be seen, assessed and managed through primary care psychology or disability services, or both. However, there is no access to these services while in an emergency department.
In addition, there is currently no funding for a liaison service between Camhs and primary care (despite national policy back in 2006 that recommended 13 liaison Camh teams be established nationally). Local Camhs teams provide temporary emergency cover during the working week to fill this gap, from within their own poorly staffed but highly motivated service. Indeed, Camhs in the southeast is the second-lowest resourced mental health service in the country, according to a recent Mental Health Commission report.
This is frustrating and disappointing. We are currently funding Ireland’s psychiatric services at less than 50 per cent of what is considered OECD norms – a depressing reality for which the HSE and Department of Health are accountable. The children of Ireland who need specialist Camhs support deserve far better. – Yours, etc,
Dr MIA McLAUGHLIN,
Old Age Psychiatry,
College of Psychiatrists of Ireland,