465. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Justice if her Department will review the need for pre-arrest diversions to psychiatric services for persons with mental health illnesses as recommended in a recent report (details supplied). [56971/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I very much welcome the publication of this report from the Mental Health Commission. I thank both the Inspector of Mental Health Services and the Inspector of Prisons for their work on this important issue and I believe the publication of this report is very timely.
We know that the healthcare needs of vulnerable, sometimes seriously ill, people who interact with the criminal justice system are complex and require whole of systems consideration and priority action. It is widely acknowledged that these people are too ill to be in prison as they require urgent medication and treatment and that there is a vital need to put in place properly resourced, appropriately located systems of care for these most vulnerable people in society.
The Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture report last year reinforced the need for us to work together to provide appropriate care for those that have specific mental health needs when they come into contact with our criminal justice system.
This is also acknowledged in the Programme for Government commitment to the establishment of a high-level cross-departmental/cross-agency taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those imprisoned, and primary care support on release.
I am pleased to say that considerable progress has been made on meeting this commitment. Last April, the Minister for Health and I established the High Level Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of persons interacting with the criminal justice system. The Taskforce has already met on five occasions and has established three expert subgroups on diversion, prison and central mental hospital capacity and community throughcare. The Taskforce is aiming to provide a high level implementation plan for its recommendations by early 2022.
I am advised that the Mental Health Commission has now written to the chair of the Taskforce, providing her with a copy of the report and expressing their openness to presenting the report to the group. I understand that the chair has welcomed the offer to meet as it is very timely in terms of the Taskforce’s desire to consult with the Commission. Arrangements in that regard are currently being finalised.
The Commission report also references Crisis Intervention Teams. Following on from the recommendation of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, the Limerick Division are leading out on the design and implementation of a Crisis Intervention Team pilot project.
I am advised that this is currently at consultation phase and that liaison is on-going through a dedicated Steering Committee with local HSE representatives. It is envisaged that it will involve a co-located response unit comprising of a Community Psychiatric Nurse working alongside frontline members of An Garda Síochána to respond to calls from anyone in crisis.