On the 10th May 2018 I attended a meeting in Cork with the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon. I was there representing all the young people who attend the Assessment and Day Treatment Centre, Matt Talbot Adolescent Services CLG and to act on behalf of them as an advocate and to give a voice to the many needs highlighted by young people and families who attend our service.

Dr. Niall Muldoon was appointed Ombudsman for Children in 2015 and has vast experience working with children both as a Clinical Psychologist and formally as a Clinical Director of children’s charity the CARI Foundation (Children at Risk in Ireland). The independent office of the Ombudsman for Children, which is free and impartial, has several functions including taking complaints from the public on public services and promoting the rights of children.

A the meeting I highlighted many needs for young people attending the Assessment and Day Treatment Centre and the need for the recommendations of ‘Vision for Change’ made in relation to dual diagnosis treatment to be implemented; how both CAMHS and substance misuse services need to collaboratively work together for young people who simultaneously need both services and how it is deplorable that children have to wait for months to get the appropriate mental health services they so desperately require. Dr. Muldoon and myself had a lengthy conversation about how the fight on drugs needs to radically change, and instead of waging war the focus should be shifted onto understanding. Dr. Muldoon stated he was not aware of the fact that a lot of young people are not treated in CAMHS if they are misusing substances and was quite appalled at this. Under the human right to the highest attainable standard of mental health, the Irish Government has a particular responsibility to provide services to marginalized groups. People with intellectual disability, co-occurring substance misuse difficulties, or who are homeless all have higher risk of developing mental health difficulties than the general population, yet they are least well served by existing mental health services. I highlighted to Dr. Muldoon the need for the development of a specialist team for young people with co- occurring substance abuse and mental health difficulties and how it is clear that these high risk groups have not received the priority they should have in the implementation of A Vision for Change.

Dr. Muldoon suggested that he will be requesting from the Government a specific ‘Vision for Change’ for young people as they need to separate the needs for young people and adults as both groups have very different needs.

Dr. Muldoon requested that I complete a report in relation to our specific statistics on this area to strengthen the need for radical change & very kindly offered to visit Matt Talbot Adolescent Services CLG in the near future but also offered to have young people involved in our service visit his office in Dublin and afford them the opportunity to get their voice heard. I would like to thank Dr. Muldoon for his time and patience in hearing the struggles and difficulties that young people face on a daily basis and look forward to liaising further with his office at the Ombudsman for Children.

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