A virtual mental health service that allows children to access support late at night has been used by local children more than 3,000 times since its launch.
It comes as CAMHS has noted a massive and increasing demand on its services, and is boosting both the size of its team and scope of their work to meet a massive demand for child mental health services.
In 2021, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) operated with 21 members of staff. This year that number has now grown to 38, with an additional 17 positions currently in the recruitment process.
In a Scrutiny hearing on Friday Children and Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden and Deputy Trevor Pointon, the Assistant Minister with responsibility for children's mental health services, were grilled by a panel of politicians over the state of children's mental health services.
Dr Darren Bowring, who has been Head of Children's Health and Wellbeing and CAMHS since his appointment in April 2021, was also present to answer questions.
At the time of the hearing, CAMHS had already received 183 referrals in 2022.
Pictured: Dr Darren Bowring has "quickly adapted CAMHS" to meet increased demand for mental health services.
“There has been a growing prevalence here and elsewhere,” said Dr Bowring. “We have seen an increase in eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety and depression as well and neurodiverse conditions such as autism and ADHD.
“It’s been necessary to quickly adapt our services."
From Tuesday 1 March, an early intervention manager will be recruited to lead a team tasked with making sure children receive adequate support before mental health issues escalate to the point where a CAMHS referral is required.
The long-term plan is for “every secondary school in Jersey” to have a dedicated early intervention practitioner assigned to provide direct support for schoolchildren and training for their teachers.
Pictured: CAMHS is currently based at Liberte House, La Mottee Street.
This senior hire marks the first of a wave of new starters to join the CAMHS workforce, Scrutiny was told. There will also be a focus on recruiting permanent staff locally rather than bringing people in from off-island.
“For one position in particular, Assistant Psychologist, we have received almost 40 applicants,” said Dr Bowring. “Most of those people are local graduates.”
“There is no need to bring staff in from outside Jersey when we can support people here and provide them with experience," he added.
Pictured: Specialist staff are being hired after eating disorders tripled among children and young people in Jersey.
Eating disorder specialists are also being interviewed. The amount of young people in Jersey with eating disorders has tripled since 2017.
Not only has CAMHS seen its resources increased, but there had been an increased focus in working with other mental health support services.
“We have a contract with Mind Jersey, who can help people with lower health mental health issues. Our relationship has worked well, with many who have received treatment there not needing to be referred onwards to CAMHS”.
Scrutineers were told that Kooth, which is a free mental health service for young people launched year, had also been a successful in taking the pressure off CAMHS.
“There are more than 720 people registered on the online platform”, said Dr Bowring, “which in total has used over 3,000 times”.
“Not only is that a lot of young people who have accessed help without the need for CAMHS, but Kooth also allows access to important support late at night and in the early hours of the morning.”
A follow-up review of the island's mental health services by the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel is currently underway.
The panel’s first damning Assessment of Mental Health Services report was published on 6 March 2019 and featured 24 key findings, including long waiting times to access mental health services and a lack of investment over a sustained period of time. It also revealed that some islanders in crisis were being "locked away" in prison cells, rather than being taken to a place of safety.
Meanwhile, the Government's watchdog - Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment - is specifically investigating CAMHS.
It will focus on use of funds and Human Resources, how decisions are made, how well services for children and young people are joined up, how the services are monitored and reported on and how far Jersey's offering is meeting best practice.
The Government recently unveiled a new strategy for children's mental health which you can read more about HERE.
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