The Westmeath CAMHS service is based at Mullingar Primary Care Centre (pictured).

Report finds damning shortfalls in local youth mental health services

Children and adolescents with autism have “limited or no access to services” in the community health area that covers all of Westmeath, according to the authors of a damning new report into the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the region.

The findings are included in a report prepared by the Mental Health Commission, which identifies 18 challenges in Community Healthcare 8 (CHO 8) which covers Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly, Louth and Meath.

Among the other damning findings in the report across all teams operating in the Midlands area are staff retention difficulties with the authors stating that there is “a limited ability to recruit staff” to the CAMHS teams in the Midlands. The report also identified the loss of clinical expertise, a low number of team members relative to an increasing population, the absence of a dedicated CAMHS service for children with intellectual disability and moderate to severe mental illness, the lack of a specialist eating disorder teams. and the lack of a suitable IT system and electronic files.

The report also noted that there were difficulties in accessing child and adolescent mental health service inpatient beds, resulting in clinicians “trying to manage” children/young people who “pose a serious risk to themselves in the community.”

Moreover, the authors added that having “no access to day hospital or day programmes” also results in clinicians “holding risks” at community level.

A total of 605 children and young adolescents across the Midlands were on a waiting list to be seen by CAMHS team in March of this year, despite funding amounting to €74.8 million for under 18s being allocated in 2022.

In light of the serious shortfalls in the CAMHS service nationwide which were identified in the report, the Inspector of Mental Health Services has recommended that the service should be “immediately and independently regulated” by the Mental Health Commission and that a “comprehensive strategy” for CAMHS and “all other mental health services for children” be prepared.

The Inspector also recommended that the implementation of the report recommendations “must be monitored by the Mental Health Commission.”

As well as identifying 18 challenges to the provision of a proper service for those presenting to the child and adolescent mental health services in the Midlands, the report also looked at the strengths in the service, one of which was found to be the fact that an on-call rota system is in place overnight and at weekends. The authors also noted that there is “a good relationship” between CAMHS and the adult mental health services, and they also found that 82% of the children/young people sampled had “individual care plans.”

The report also highlighted the fact that there was a good filing system “in one team” and that art psychotherapy is also available “in one team.”