WEST Cork’s mental health support service, Home Focus, has been hailed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a shining example of best practice.
Based at The National Learning Network (NLN) in Bantry Home Focus is a partnership between the Mental Health Services and the NLN and is designed to provide outreach and individualised support to people with mental health difficulties who are isolated because of their inability to access traditional, centre-based services.
‘The programme started 15 years ago and we provide a one-on-one service for people within their communities,’ Home Focus rehabilitative training inspector, Aidan Murphy told The Southern Star.
‘Most importantly we provide a non-medical based support for people who are living their lives with mental health issues within their own communities.’
Across West Cork, Home Focus has five members who support 27 people. ‘We support those who need help in communities across West Cork, this can be home visits, visits within a community setting, phone calls or even text messages, it all depends on what people need at that particular time,’ Caroline Hayes, recovery and development officer said.
‘Many of our clients live alone, in temporary accommodation, which is extremely challenging, or with family members. Home Focus is designed to meet people where they feel comfortable where they want to meet us. We try never to direct but to let people voice their own needs and then we can let them access services within their communities, or enable them to access training or other supports that they might need.’
The Covid-19 crisis, coupled with the ‘new normal’ of masks, social distancing and lockdowns, has also highlighted to the Home Focus team the need for extra supports for those who have difficulty navigating new rules and standards.
‘Home Focus is a training programme and is a great opportunity for people to find what they are good at and to recognised their own strengths,’ Aidan said.
‘However, as the lockdown started, we quickly discovered that there is a large digital divide when it comes to accessing training and of course reliable wi-fi services for many of our clients.’
It was Dr Pat Bracken, formerly of Bantry General Hospital, who first brought the Home Focus Project to the attention of the WHO. ‘The WHO were looking worldwide for models of best practice in the field of mental health service,’ Caroline said.
‘We are all delighted that the support we give here in West Cork has been recognised by a global authority such as the WHO. We have great support from the Mental Health Service as well as the local community mental health nurses.
Aidan Murphy concluded: ‘All our referrals are through the Mental Health Service, our ethos is centred around people first, we are here to help with managing life and to focus on the real and positive message that recovery is possible.’