MHR on Universal Health Insurance

Mental Health Reform expresses concern at absence of counselling in proposed Universal Health Insurance basket of services

Reacting to the publication of the Government’s White Paper on Universal Health Insurance (UHI), the national coalition Mental Health Reform has expressed concern that the proposed standard ‘basket’ of services does not include talking therapies that are accessible through GPs, an important part of early intervention for mental and emotional distress.

Dr Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform, commented: “For most people who experience a mental health difficulty, their first port of call for professional support will be their local GP. This primary care system addresses 90% of mental health difficulties in Ireland. Failure to cover counselling in primary care under UHI would mean that the vast majority of those seeking help for a mental health difficulty would not have equivalent access to counselling as they will to medication.”

“Currently, medical card holders with mild to moderate mental health difficulties can avail of a short course of counselling free of charge through the HSE’s Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC) service. The CIPC service received 5,153 referrals from GPs between its launch in July 2013 and the end of the year. Clearly, there is a demand for counselling services. The CIPC service is an important form of early intervention for people experiencing mental or emotional distress, and can prevent people ending up in more costly acute hospital care. It is important that the introduction of UHI does not result in medical card holders losing their existing access to counselling through primary care,” Dr McDaid continued.

“The White Paper also makes no mention of mental health promotion as being included in health and wellbeing services. While the overarching commitment to improving both the physical and mental health of the population is welcome, Government needs to clarify whether or not mental health promotion, which focuses on protective factors and prevention of mental health conditions, will be included in publicly-funded health and wellbeing services. Promoting positive mental health and strengthening individuals’ and communities’ coping skills will have long-term social and economic benefits,” Dr McDaid concluded.


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