The Inspector of Mental Health Services has published a National Overview of Forensic Mental Health Services in Ireland in 2011. It is noted that the prevalence of severe mental illness is about ten times higher amongst prisoners than amongst the general population, with 4.6% of those committed to Irish prisons each year having a major depressive disorder.
The report outlines current service delivery nationwide, acknowledging many changes and developments that have been achieved in this area in the last ten years. Among them is the establishment of the Prison In-reach and Court Liaison Service (PICLS), a diversion service based in Cloverhill Prison which referred 114 remand prisoners to community treatment settings in 2010, and had a further 88 community diversions in the period January-September 2011.
The report also details the in-reach services provided by staff from the Central Mental Hospital to the Dóchas Centre, St. Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders and Arbour Hill, Wheatfield and Portlaoise Prisons. In the Dóchas Centre, for example, twice weekly medical in-reach services are provided to 120 female prisoners, with an average of 14 prisoners being seen per week. A weekly health care meeting is held with other agencies in the prison and Court diversions are provided as required.
The report goes on to discuss the challenges facing forensic mental health services in Ireland and examines how this sector might best be developed over the coming years. Among its recommendations are:
- The government decision to provide €90 million to capitalise the building of a new Central Mental Hospital should be progressed as a matter of urgency in order to protect basic human rights of mentally disordered offenders and detained patients.
- The PICLS court diversion service at Cloverhill Prison should be replicated in other remand prisons.
- The provision of multidisciplinary care and treatment for mental illness in prisons should be developed. Maximising pre-release planning for mentally ill prisoners is imperative in order to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation.
The full report and recommendations can be read here.