Inadequate funding has been blamed for the lack of access to mental health services for children, according to Donegal county councillor Gerry McMonagle.
Cllr McMonagle called on the HSE to urgently address the supply and demand issue in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
In the CHO1 area which includes Donegal, over 30% of children referred to CAMHS have been refused access this year.
“That is shocking and disgraceful because it’s our children we are talking about and if they don’t get the necessary support they need now, they will not get better,” Cllr McMonagle told Tuesday’s meeting of the Regional Health Forum West.
“I don’t know if we can stand by any longer and allow this to continue.”
Cllr McMonagle expressed his frustration with reports that the government has granted an additional €1 billion to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.
Cllr McMonagle said: “I’m not saying this in a bad way, but I have to wonder why were we not investing in children’s services for years because that is the problem, the lack of investment has been the problem.
“We have in Donegal 10,000 Ukrainians, and maybe 3,000-4,000 international protection refugees as well and they are very welcomed and they should be supported and helped by us.
“But if a billion euro is being used to top up the Department of Children because of refugees, why were Irish children not protected, not invested in and not supported all these years?
“It begs the question: how do we look at our children.”
Cllr McMonagle said it was “clear to see” that children with intellectual and physical disabilities have not been adequately supported in recent years.
The Regional Health Forum West was told that there are more than 11 vacancies in the Donegal CAMHS service.
All of the CAMHS teams in Donegal are experiencing an increase in the volume and complexity of referrals, with services under pressure as demand continues to exceed capacity.
Donegal CAMHS Services are delivered by three multidisciplinary teams. The Consultant Psychiatrist post for the South Donegal CAMHS team became vacant at the end of August 2023.
“Every effort is being made by the HSE Medical Manpower Office (HR) to recruit a replacement and this includes engaging with other recruitment agencies,” said Dermot Monaghan, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo.
Mr Monaghan concurred with Cllr McMonagle’s comments that children’s services need additional investment
“I can also confirm that in a meeting last year with the minister, the chief officers requested that children’s services be prioritised for investment,” he added.