HSE funds on mental health may be diverted
Resource type: News
Irish Times |
by FIONA GARTLAND A QUARTER of the funding earmarked for the Government’s mental health strategy A Vision for Change may be diverted for use in other areas, according to the Irish Mental Health Coalition (IMHC), an umbrella body for mental health groups. Highlighting World Mental Health Day today, the coalition said the Health Service Executive had spent or committed only three quarters of its EUR51.2 million budget allocated to implement the strategy in 2006 and 2007. And no money was allocated for the strategy in 2008. Under the 2006 strategy, EUR21.6 million was to be provided annually over seven years in order to develop the recommended new services. John Saunders, chairman of the coalition, said it was given details of the HSE spending under the Freedom of Information Act, and was told the HSE may divert the remaining quarter of the strategy budget to meet deficits in other areas. “It is still not clear what will actually be delivered from the money already spent,” Mr Saunders said. “No development money at all was provided in 2008, and we do not yet know if any will be allocated for 2009.” Mr Saunders also highlighted last month’s Mental Health Commission report, The Economics of Mental Health Care in Ireland, which estimated that the annual overall cost of poor mental health in Ireland is EUR3 billion. “In this economic climate, the case for increased investment in mental health services is compelling,” he said. He said, however, that more money was not enough.. “There is an alarming lack of transparency and accountability in how funding is allocated and spent,” he said. He called on the Government to provide accountable financial investment in mental health services in Budget 2009. The IMHC pre-budget submission also calls on the Government to prioritise investment in preventtive and interventionist treatments as well as moving towards equity for mental health services. The Government’s spend on mental health should reach 10 per cent of its overall health spend, the IMHC said. And it called for funds allocated to specialist mental health areas to be safeguarded. A spokesman for the HSE said EUR29.5 million of the EUR51.2 million in funding for mental health service development in 2006 and 2007 was spent so far. “The balance of the funding for 2006 and 2007 was time-delayed to meet core expenditure requirements within the mental health service, thus ensuring that the HSE met its obligation to deliver its services within its budget,” he said. The spokesman said the HSE has prioritised child and adolescent psychiatry for 2008 and provisions included 18 acute psychiatric beds for children and adolescents. Fourteen consultant child psychiatrist posts have also been advertised by the HSE, comprising 12 new and two replacement posts, and the selection process for these consultants is under way. “The total cost of these developments will be EUR18.2 million, which clearly demonstrates that the HSE will have invested all the funding that was time-delayed in 2007 and some of the funding also timedelayed from 2006 in the development of child and adolescent mental health services,” the spokesman said. In another development, the Mental Health Commission, which will host a seminar on mental health advocacy this morning as part of World Mental Health Day, has warned the Government against making short-term savings in mental health services. Dr Edmond O’Dea, chairman of the commission, said investment in mental health services not only benefits patients but pays its way economically through reducing the cost to society of mental illness. “Short-term savings in the mental health budget may well impose high economic costs elsewhere in terms of the costs of absenteeism, early retirement, social care and medical interventions required for individuals who have not been treated early and effectively enough,” he said.