WATCH: Mental Health & Addiction in the Penal System

Patrick Costello TD speaks on the Second Stage of the Central Mental Hospital (Relocation) Bill.

Full Speech Transcript:

Like everyone else, the Green Party welcomes this Bill. It is a much-needed modernisation, expansion and improvement of necessary services that work with very vulnerable people. There are a few interesting things to note in the Bill. The improvement of the child and adolescent mental health side of things is more than welcome. This is a very specialist service within the child and adolescent mental health services. It is excellent to see that. I will avoid my usual rant about how child and adolescent mental health services are just not up to scratch and not fit for purpose. I will bore the Minister of State with that some other time.

There is a wider conversation to be had about mental health in the Prison Service. The Central Mental Hospital operates in that grey area between mental health and prison. As we have learned from the recent Council of Europe report on our prison services, as well as many other reports, there is a huge problem with failing to provide mental health services for vulnerable prisoners in the Prison Service. Along with the mental health services in the National Forensic Mental Health Service, that vulnerability for mental health for prisoners is something we need to address. Maybe the National Forensic Mental Health Service and the Prison Service can link up and there may be a chance for shared resources and knowledge.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government to a high-level, cross-Department, interagency forum that would look at the issue of mental health and addiction for those in prison. Issues with mental health and addiction can lead people down a path that will end in prison but equally, people can experience those issues for the first time when they go into prison. We need to ensure that our prisons are able to handle these challenges and that they are not causing the problem. We need that working group to be up and running as soon as possible. I just wanted to take this opportunity to present that matter to the Minister of State and encourage it to be done as soon as possible.

There is also a commitment in the programme for Government, about which I am talking to the Minister for Justice, to ratify the optional protocol of the UN Convention Against Torture, which would go a long way to supporting the quality service that I have no doubt both our prisons and the new National Forensic Mental Health Service will deliver.