Minister Lynch clarifies that despite recent media reports, there has been no additional cut to the mental health budget

Minister Kathleen Lynch sought today (Thursday, 6th September 2012) to quickly dispel any notion of further cuts to the mental health budget to offset the current HSE deficit as reported in the Irish Times this morning. The Minister clarified that in Budget 2012 there was special provision for an additional €35m for mental health. This is to be used mostly to strengthen our Community Mental Health Teams, to provide psychological and counselling services in the primary care setting for people with mental health problems and to fund additional activities on suicide prevention.

As part of the process, the Government approved the creation of an additional 414 posts for healthcare professionals as recommended in A Vision for Change to support the delivery of modern secondary mental health care in the community. These are of their nature specialist jobs in clinical psychology, social work, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, also including psychiatric nurses, childcare workers and counsellor co-ordinators.

Of the 414 posts allocated, 353 are with the National Recruitment Service of the HSE at various stages in the recruitment process, 321 have been put to candidates to express an interest and others are awaiting competitions or the completion of essential paperwork. Most start dates are expected to be in December to allow for the process of checking references, Garda clearance etc.

Minister Lynch said “this Government remains committed to engaging these professionals as soon as is feasible to provide essential and very important services in the area of mental health and the work of completing the recruitment process remains a priority for us.”

In relation to the Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, over the past year there have been a number of leadership changes within that Office. The recently appointed new director, Dr. Stephanie O’ Keeffe has accepted a post in the Department of Health to play a key role on a new national project from September 10th 2012. The process of selecting her replacement as Director of the Suicide Prevention Office has already commenced.