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A 24-hour mental health helpline is due to launch in the second half of 2019, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly has said.
Speaking to the Medical Independent, Minister Daly said the helpline, which was due to roll-out by the end of last year, would now be established in the latter part of 2019.
The delay occurred because the Department of Health “changed track” on initial plans to launch the service using a private company, according to Minister Daly. He said the nationwide service would now be established using staff from the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS).
“They [NAS] get about 800 calls a month that are mental health-related anyway and they really aren’t geared for it. There is no point sending an ambulance out to somebody who has a mental health episode… so what we’ve decided is we’re going to establish it within the National Ambulance Service, this 24/7 emergency phone line for mental health episodes,” Minister Daly outlined.
He said funding and protocols had been agreed and staff training, which will take 14 weeks, would commence early this month. He was unable to state an exact cost for the new service.
Minister Daly explained that when a mental health-related call is made to the NAS, a caller would be referred “to the appropriate nearest service”, which has not been happening heretofore.
“People are flailing around trying to discover where they should go. They don’t know whether they should go to Jigsaw or Pieta House, or whatever. There are 1,027 different mental health services being funded by the HSE nationally,” he said. “We need to know where they all are and have them on our database and they will need to have a clinical and corporate governance that’s acceptable and when all of that will be ticked, they’ll all be set up on a register.”
Meanwhile, Minister Daly said he is focused on “giving real alternatives to nursing homes” for older people. As they currently exist, he said he wants to “see the back of nursing homes”. Private investors and local authorities were already looking into the matter, he said, with a view to establishing independent homes on complexes staffed by nurses and care assistants.
See interview, page 12