New National Forensic Mental Health Service opened in Portrane

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The new National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) in Portrane, Co. Dublin, was officially opened at the beginning of November by Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan.

The Minister for Health said the  relocation of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum to this new state of the art, purpose-built facility, delivered on a Programme of Government commitment and was a key objective of Sharing the Vision, the national mental health policy.

“The new forensic campus enables the provision of a modern forensic mental health service and  provides a network of forensic facilities to allow proper and timely intervention.” 

The new Portrane facility replaces the 172-year-old Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum with a National Forensic Mental Health Service. When fully operational. the facility will provide care for 170 patients on campus. 

The Department said the NFMHS would provide a national tertiary mental health service. It would work with local mental health services in every part of the country and outreach to prisons/courts via the Prison In-Reach and Court liaison Service (PICLS) for those with high-level mental health difficulties. The new facility (includes a new 130-bed CMH, 30-bed Intensive Care Rehabilitation Unit (ICRU) and 10-bed Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (FCAMHS) unit.

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler said: “This is one of the most modern forensic mental health facilities in Europe and it presents new opportunities to deliver the highest quality care and outcomes for some of the most complex and vulnerable mental health cases in Ireland. It represents the biggest health capital project ever outside of the Acute General hospital system with a cost of over €200 million.” 

“Importantly, for people using the service and their families, the new facility will support the enhanced delivery of person-centred care underpinned by human rights. I welcome in particular a designated new female-only unit in line with best national and international practice. 

“I look forward to the full roll out as soon as possible of the 30-bed Intensive Care Rehabilitation Unit (ICRU) and the 10-bed forensic CAMHS unit which are the first of their kind in Ireland. They are due to open on a phased basis over 2023 – 2024.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan said, “Improving mental health services for prisoners with dual diagnosis is part of developing integrated care pathways for high-risk drug users, which is a strategic priority in the national drugs strategy. I hope the new facility will facilitate a joined-up approach by professionals providing healthcare for prisoners affected by dual diagnosis. There is an opportunity to link this health service with the HSE dual diagnosis clinical programme, so that prisoners can continue to be supported by specialist mental health services in the community upon their release.”

Alongside the Intensive Care Rehabilitation Unit (ICRU) and the Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Facility (FCAMHS), the National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) will also offer five clusters of forensic mental health care, including a Pre-discharge Unit, Female Unit, Mental Health Intellectual Disability Unit (MHID‐F), High Secure Unit and a Medium Secure Unit.

There are 130 single patient bedrooms laid out in small wards around shared indoor and outdoor spaces, in which collective activities and therapies take place. 

A ‘village centre’ provides shared recreational facilities, including a horticultural area, a gym, a woodwork workshop and a music room, while a series of courtyards and secure perimeter gardens allow patients direct access to nature from each ward. The village centre also houses mental health therapeutic services, a GP and a dentist.