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Many with ID forced to live abroad
[Posted: Mon 24/01/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Psychiatrists have slammed the lack of progress in developing intellectual disability (ID) services here, which has led to 55 people having to access services abroad.
They say some people with ID have had to live abroad for the past 30 years in order to access services outside Ireland.
The College of Psychiatry, in a report to mark the fifth anniversary of the Government's Vision for Change document, highlighted the lack of progress in providing adequate, appropriate and affordable care for those with an intellectual disability (ID).
The College said that while the document on developing mental heath services recommended the establishment of 39 teams to care for those with ID by 2016, to date only two such teams have been developed, neither of which is fully staffed.
It points out that at present 55 Irish people with ID are currently housed in facilities abroad, far removed from their families, friends and a wider community, due to the chronic lack of suitable facilities here.
This is an increase of 20 people since the Vision for Change document was published in 2006. The College sauys the longest placement reported is of a person who has been in the United States since 1981.
The College says the HSE is currently spending just under €5 million a year on these placements outside the State.
The College, in a new report also states that in addition to the 55 people living abroad, it is estimated that 137 people with ID who need specialist services cannot avail of them, either in Ireland or abroad, and it is felt this could be an underestimation.
Dr Siobhan Barry of the College of Psychiatry said the fact that people were forced to reside abroad to access ID services was an infringement of their rights and denied many their citizenship.
Dr Peter Leonard , the chair of the College's Faculty of Learning Disability, said exporting vulnerable people in this manner meant that local expertise had not developed and some of the 55 people currently in facilities outside the country have been there for 30 years.
"This is not acceptable or sustainable," he said.
The College's report concludes that all Irish citizens with an intellectual disability should be able to avail of an appropriate specialist service at home.
The HSE, in response, said it aimed to provide the highest clinical care to all of its patients.
"Where an individual is clinically assessed as requiring specialist care that is unavailable in Ireland, it is not uncommon for that individual to be supported in receiving appropriate services outside the jurisdiction," a spokesman told irishhealth.com.
Meanwhile, greater accountability and investment is needed to deliver real reform of our mental health services, according to the Irish Mental Health Coalition (IMHC).
IMHC Director Orla Barry said efforts are needed to fast-track the Vision for Change plan if its set targets are to be reached by its 10-year deadline of 2016.
"A national directorate for mental health services in the HSE is one of the most urgent recommendations in a Vision for Change. The fact that senior executive accountability was never established has been hugely detrimental to implementing the policy," she said.
Ms Barry said the contrast of the progress made with the National Cancer Strategy was stark.
She said that while positive developments had occurred in many areas and the commitment by health service management to make improvements was evident, progress in making reforms had been slow.
Ms Barry said there were significant differences in the quality of services across the country and in the resources available to move to a modern community model.
"This has been worsened by the staff moratorium which has resulted in a disproportionate loss of mental health posts and a critical reliance on staffing inpatient facilities at the expense of community services."
She said 20% of the posts lost in the HSE in 2010 were from mental health services even though this area represents just 9% of the workforce.
The HSE marked the fifth anniversary of the Vision for Change document with an event in Dublin Castle today.
It said significant achievements had taken place in key areas including support for service users, mental health in primary care, child and adolescent services and spending on infrastructure.
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