THANK you for highlighting the plight of people with mental health problems through Jennifer Hough’s excellent piece (June 7). However, I find myself once again saying “the more things change the more they remain the same”.

In your editorial you rightly point to the fact that facilities are unfit for human habitation, much less recuperation, while acknowledging the determination of minister John Moloney. Ministers come and go, and so too personnel working in the field. Many leave for promotion and others as a result of sheer frustration while those needing improved facilities remain statistics in an ever increasing pile of reports.

Reports do not include figures for people who over the years were discharged to hostel accommodation because they were cheaper to run, or to struggling communities without adequate support. Many people end up on the streets because they have serious psychological and psychiatric problems without ever having received the support required to live in the community.

Many people are scarred by a lifetime in state institutions and all are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

More than a quarter of a century ago the then Health Minister Barry Desmond published a grand strategy, Planning for the Future. Many patients in psychiatric hospitals were literally made homeless because no adequate community care services were provided as envisaged in the plan – without support many ended up on the streets. We can testify to that because we still meet many of them as they are counted among people who are still homeless today.

At a time when state services for the most vulnerable people in society are being outsourced to the voluntary/private sector, serious questions need to be asked. It is not surprising that many are sceptical of programme plans.

Minister Moloney urgently needs the support of all government departments. This will cost money. Support services need to be put in place – it is not just about doctors and nurses where it would appear there is a welcome relaxation of the recruitment embargo. The rush to fill vacant apartments must not now result in another dumping ground – this will happen if adequate support services area not put in place.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that everyone is entitled to dignity and respect – something we should not forget in these challenging times for all.

Alice Leahy
Director and Co-founder
Bride Road
Dublin 8

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, June 24, 2010

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