An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and Jim Daly, Minister for Mental Health and Older People today launched a significant new approach to mental health care - the HSE online CAMHS Connect service.
CAMHS Connect, the first of its kind nationally, will form the core of the new Castlerea Mental Health Hub across HSE West and beyond, and will comprise the on-line service based in a new CAMHS Day Hospital. Another new Day Hospital has also been provided on site for Psychiatry of Later-Life ( POLL), which will best meet evolving clinical health needs across a wide catchment area. A large component of the new services will be developed by mental health professionals to provide Outreach services to Emergency and Inpatient units via tele-psychiatry.
CAMHS Connect is one strand of various new e- Mental Health initiatives commenced by Minister Daly since he came to office to modernise mental health care nationally. These include pilot tele-psychiatry projects by the HSE in Wicklow, Galway and Mayo to expand on-line technology across different mental health care settings such as adult services, Addiction and Substance Abuse care, GPs and Primary Care and Mental Health Intellectual Disability.
CAMHS Connect will provide vastly improved patient experiences, particularly at out- of-hours times where currently a young person presenting to a facility with no on-duty psychiatrist must wait until one becomes available the following morning. With the assistance of doctors working from the new Hub, clinical support will be readily available around the clock to support health staff elsewhere to treat presentations, thus avoiding delay and helping to reduce waiting lists.
Improved support will also be available to Mental Health Multi-Disciplinary Teams across large geographical areas to fill gaps where there are recruitment issues. In some instances, the lack of Consultant Clinical governance can severely inhibit the work of an entire CAMHS Team and delay treating patients. The new Roscommon model offers a real solution for such scenarios. It is a road map for the future that has the potential to radically improve the experience of the patients of mental health services, which is the ultimate goal of service users, health professionals and mental health advocates.
As it develops further, it will operate primarily through a day hospital/assertive outreach service based in Castlerea (in the renovated Rosalie Unit) which will operate synergistically with a day hospital in Galway on a seven-day basis. This will provide young people in counties Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim with a real alternative to inpatient care. It will also support, as appropriate, CAMHS services in the South East.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:
COVID-19 has brought home something we have always known, that maintaining and improving our mental health is an essential part of our wellbeing. Positive mental health enhances our ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life, and makes us more engaged, productive and happy citizens. Now more than ever, we realise the importance of looking after our mental health.
Back in 2012 the funding for Mental Health in our country was €711m. Today it is just over a billion euro, because the Government recognises how much it matters to our health and wellbeing. Over the past few years we have been developing new online responses to complement existing mental health care in Ireland, long before we had ever heard of COVID-19. We knew new ways of doing things were necessary to meet evolving needs, and this Emergency has reinforced why e-Mental Health is so important.
By creating a digital hub it will be possible for mental health professionals to provide outreach services to Emergency and Inpatient units via tele-psychiatry. This new online service, CAMHS Connect will form the core of the new Castlerea Mental Health Hub across HSE West and beyond.
Minister Daly stated:
CAMHS Connect is an innovative project designed to demonstrate how telepsychiatry can provide low cost solutions to national challenges faced by this vital specialist service. It reflects new thinking to deliver community-based services, that I supported in the refresh of the policy A vision for Change, which will be launched shortly.
A key issue for me was to ensure quality and safety, particularly around confidentiality, and protecting the rights of all using this new service. I have seen on-line systems working very well abroad, so I was determined to introduce similar but tailored approaches in Ireland to address obvious need and long-standing calls from many in the mental health sector. The potential represented by CAMHS Connect is enormous nationally in so many ways, particularly from a 24/7 perspective or addressing distance or staffing obstacles. This will help to better support both young people and a range of healthcare professionals, not just mental health specialists. We now have a new avenue for Access, and therefore a new one for quicker intervention and Recovery.
I am particularly pleased that the new Day Hospital for Psychiatry of Later Life has also been located at this site. This will provide a totally different dimension of mental health care for older people in the region, compared to the changing service needs reflected at the old Rosalie Unit.