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A West Clare councillor has stressed the need to improve the mental health supports on offer to young people with issues “exasperated” due to COVID-19.

Mental health services for children and adolescents run from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm prompting Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) to remark, “I understand there are constraints in every service but mental health issues are 24/7”.

An Ennis based multidisciplinary team are responsible for the child and adolescent mental health services in West Clare, Chief Officer of Mid West Community Healthcare, Maria Bridgeman outlined. This team consists of a psychiatrist, junior doctor, a team of nurses, social worker, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist plus a speech and language therapist.

Access is granted following a referral from the GP of a child or family and review by the multi-disciplinary team. “In cases where a child or young person is acutely mentally unwell and requires hospital treatment, In patient services are accessed through the CAMHS in patient unit in Galway. In this case the consultant psychiatrist from Clare would refer the child to the team in Galway who complete and assessment prior to admission,” Bridegeman explained.

Cllr Murphy also sought detail on the mental health services provided by the HSE in West Clare for youths aged 18 to 24. Individuals in this bracket “are considered adults in terms of Mental Health services and are seen as required by the General Adult Psychiatry Service specific to the person’s address,” Bridgeman responded.

Kilrush, Ennis, Shannon and Lisdoonvarna are the catchment areas for general adult mental health services in the county. The services are delivered by multidisciplinary teams which consist of a consultant psychiatrist, junior doctor/s, clinical psychologist, a team of nurses including Community Mental Health Nurses who see people at home, occupational therapist and social worker. These services are also accessed through a GP who makes a referral to the Community Mental Health Team.

Bridegman advised that lottery funding was approved for Sailing Into Wellness CLG “who provide a recovery programme named ‘Sailing into Wellness’ which accommodates 26 participants per course for both Adult and Young Service Users. A portion spaces of spaces on all funded courses are reserved for young people attending the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in West Clare”.

Speaking at a meeting of the HSE Regional Forum West, Cllr Murphy queried if there was an improvement on the figure of 206 children waiting for a mental health appointment in Clare in 2019, 84 of whom were waiting for longer than a year.

“Have we had any research on the impact of COVID-19 on the demand for mental health services. 18-24 deemed to be adults, they are a specific subset and especially in COVID-19 it has really exasperated situation for them. What will be required for services to provide for them. There is a train coming down the track and the consequences are not good,” the Kilkee representative added.

Work continues at a local and national level in terms of a response to adults and children whose mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, Bridgeman stated. She added, “There is work ongoing in particular relating to the psycho-social response relating to mental health issues, it is an evolving situation on the supports required”. No update on waiting lists for appointments was provided at the meeting.

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