December 4, 2009

Fears for future of counselling centre

A COUNSELLING service founded after father of two Adrian Dunne took the lives of his wife, Ciara, and their two young daughters, Lean and Shania, before committing suicide in 2006, may be forced to close due to lack of funding.

The Suicide Crisis Assessment Nurse (SCAN) programme, launched in March 2007 by the Cluain Mhuire Service in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, provides a fast-track priority referral system from primary care for people experiencing a suicidal crisis.

Cluain Mhuire was involved with the Health Service Executive in setting up a similar service in Wexford, initially on a pilot basis and with just one clinical assessment nurse.

In August the Wexford service, (that now consists of three nursing posts), was rolled out across the county.

The establishment of the service in Wexford was part of a number of steps taken by the HSE after the Monageer tragedy.

Dr. Siobhán Barry, psychiatrist and clinical director of Cluain Mhuire, said the people who were availing of the service were not as chaotic as those who ended up in a casualty department after self-harming.

They appeared to recognise that they needed help.

Referrals to the service are made by the GP who calls the nurse on her mobile phone and the patient needing help will be seen within hours, or the same day.

Cluain Mhuire, however, only has enough funding from the National Office for Suicide Prevention to provide the service until March 2010. It is operated by one nurse five days a week from 9a.m. to 5p.m.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention also confirmed that the funding agreement for the Wexford service also expires next March.

Director of nursing for the HSE’s Wexford Mental Health Service, Kevin Plunkett, said GPs only had to have a concern that a patient might self-harm to refer them to the suicide crisis assessment nurse.

“The number of people being referred to the service in Wexford is increasing but that is probably because we are meeting a need that is already there, rather than an increasing need,” he said.