Garda considering criminal investigation into Kerry Camhs revelations

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Gardaí are considering launching a criminal investigation into revelations of significant harm suffered by children who attended mental health services in Kerry.

They invited parents of young people affected by deficiencies within the South Kerry Child and Adult Mental Health Service (Camhs) to contact them.

A statement released on Friday evening said that An Garda Síochána, Division of Kerry, had received the detailed and comprehensive final report issued this week, “which will now be considered in the context of whether there are grounds to open a criminal investigation”.

The statement said An Garda Síochána was fully aware of the impact the report had on a number of families within Kerry Division.

Any parent or guardian of a young person “who they believe may have been harmed and wish to contact An Garda Síochána in Kerry” can do so by emailing [email protected] or calling their post Kept local.

“Any contact will be treated sensitively and with the strictest confidentiality. The Kerry Divisional Protective Services unit will engage with each of the families involved and the specific circumstances of their individual case.

“An assessment will be carried out by the team of specialists within the DPSU to determine whether the complaint meets the threshold to open a criminal investigation.”

Earlier, the Taoiseach said affected families and young people will be able to have their cases dealt with in a ‘non-adversarial’ way rather than having to go to court.

Speaking to reporters in Cork, Micheál Martin said the content of a study, which found over-prescription of drugs to children and adolescents was happening in the area, was alarming.

“As I said in the Dáil this week, what happened is absolutely unacceptable and shocking and the report itself did not pack a punch in this regard in terms of harm to children and risky treatment,” he said. .

An HSE review was published this week into allegations that young people who attended Camhs services in South Kerry were prescribed inappropriate medication. She looked at the treatment of more than 1,300 young people over a four-year period and found that 227 children, whose cases were cared for by a young doctor, were at serious risk of harm from sedation, emotional blunting and cognitive, growth disturbances and significant weight changes. He found “clear evidence” of significant harm to 46 children.

Mr Martin said he and Attorney General Paul Gallagher had held preliminary discussions with a view to finding a “non-adversarial mechanism to address this issue and resolve this problem”.

“This could involve a mediated approach or a mediation mechanism, but we will be looking at a range of mechanisms to achieve this in the most efficient, effective and empathetic way possible.”

Responsibility

Asked if specific people past or present in the South Kerry Camhs should face disciplinary action, Mr Martin said there would have to be accountability.

“There are mechanisms there, as you know, in terms of different categories in terms of accountability. There are different mechanisms. I don’t want to get ahead of them. But they are there to ensure accountability,” he said.

“What emerges from the report is not just about one doctor to be fair. It’s much broader than that. And that’s what really worries. And that’s the really concerning thing about what you mentioned, that it took way too long for the intervention to happen.

The Taoiseach said the problems identified were not due to a lack of resources, as the service is well funded by the state, but rather problems recruiting experienced psychiatric staff to work there.

Earlier, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said disciplinary action would be taken, if appropriate, in relation to the issues raised in the report. Mr Reid said a range of governance issues regarding the service needed to be resolved.

“It usually revolves around a set of initiatives that need to be addressed, whether it’s how people have been managed, how the organization of services has been delivered and how the surveillance was there,” he told RTÉ Morning Ireland.

“We have to approach the issue from different angles. If discipline is one of those processes, it will also happen. What has not been specifically identified or recommended in this report is the issue of discipline.

Reid said the immediate goal is to provide needed supports for affected children and families. He declined to comment on questions about any court cases that may follow.

Mr Reid said that in 2019 the HSE introduced new standard operating guideline procedures for all 73 Camhs teams. “This is what we will now be evaluating to further reassure and reassure the public across the country in terms of compliance with these standards.”

He acknowledged that there had been missed opportunities in terms of identifying issues with the Kerry Camhs service.

“There were different times when the escalation should have been stronger and the interventions could have been done earlier,” he said.

“People were trying to monitor and do the right thing but it wasn’t until September 2020 that the community organization alerted to the potential significance of this and then a whole set of triggers and actions took place, including the appointment of Dr. Sean Maskey to lead this important retrospective review and report. »

Litany of chess

Parent Maurice O’Connell, whose 14-year-old son Jason was prescribed too many ADHD drugs by Kerry-based consultant Dr David Kromer, said the report identified a litany of failures throughout the Camhs department.

“I have no faith in Camhs. I would prefer to go private now. I have no confidence in them in terms of supervision. They gave him [DR KROMER]carte blanche to give medication. Why wasn’t he watched more?

“You have to live with the child to see the effect of the overdose of this drug. They say [IN THE REPORT]that the children didn’t suffer a catastrophic effect, but if you lived here or in any other house, you would know what kind of damage these tablets caused.

A solicitor representing a number of families who have used the Kerry Camhs service said they deserved more than a cursory apology from the HSE and called on the Taoiseach to apologise.

“It’s absolutely outrageous. It’s a matter in my view that should be looked at by the criminal court,” Padraig O’Connell said. “Obviously there should be due process, but it should be investigated in criminal court.”

Mr O’Connell said the HSE’s apology only made ‘meaning if it is met by action’.

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