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Question

146. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the mental health services available in prisons; if on admission prisoners have a thorough mental health assessment as part of initial health care screening. [12662/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that In-reach mental health services are available in the Dublin and Portlaoise prisons, and Castlerea prison, through collaboration with the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) to provide forensic mental health sessions weekly in these prisons.
The Irish Prison Service, in partnership and collaboration with the HSE, provides Specialist In-reach, Consultant-led Psychiatric services to those in custody in Limerick and Cork prisons. The NFMHS also provides an assessment and liaison service for all other prisons where a prisoner requires a forensic assessment, or access to an admission bed in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH).
The Irish Prison Service has access to a limited number of places in the CMH for prisoners who require residential mental health treatment. There is currently an average of 15 persons each week awaiting transfer to the CMH.
The Irish Prison Service, in collaboration with the NFMHS, has established two dedicated areas where high support is provided to vulnerable prisoners with mental illness; D2 wing in Cloverhill Prison (for remand prisoners), and the High Support Unit in Mountjoy (for sentenced prisoners). Both units provide a dedicated area within the prison where mentally ill and vulnerable prisoners, who present with a risk of harm to self or to others, can be separated from the general prison population and are closely monitored in a safer environment. The High Support Units have managed vulnerable and mentally ill prisoners in a more effective and humanitarian environment and has resulted in greater access to care and regular reviews by the prison in-reach team.
A Psychiatric In-reach and Court Liaison Service (PICLS) is delivered by the HSE/CMH at Cloverhill Prison. The diversion system ensures as far as possible that those people presenting before the courts, or indeed at an earlier stage of the criminal justice system, where the infraction is a reflection of an underlying mental illness, are referred and treated appropriately. This approach has reduced the number of mentally ill people committed to prison.