DELAYS to a proposed new acute mental health facility for the southern sector of the Western Health Trust have been blamed on the ongoing stalemate at Stormont.

Back in March 2016, then Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, announced that Omagh was the preferred location for a planned second mental health inpatient unit for the Western Trust area.

It is understood that the new mental health unit was to be part of Phase 2 of the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex, which opened in June last year.

Although the Western Trust has confirmed that a business case for the new unit has been submitted to the Department of Health, it has yet to be approved.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The Department is continuing to work with the Western Trust to progress the business case.

“The Department fully recognises the priority afforded to this project and accordingly continues to reflect the likely funding requirement in ongoing budget considerations.”

One of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Mental Health Champions, the DUP’s Raymond Farrell, said it was “absolutely essential” the proposal received the necessary funding to further enhance and progress services and provision for local people.

The North Fermanagh Councillor said: “For too long, mental health services have been seen as a ‘Cinderella’ service to other health developments and this has got to change.

“Current funding needs a minister to actively progress the matter as this is just another social issue that is impacting people due to the lack of a functional assembly.”

Mr Farrell said that, only recently, a report released by the University of Ulster highlighted that one in five young people here between the ages of 11-18 had contemplated self harm.

He said the same report stated that a quarter of 11 to 14 year olds were “clearly showing” evidence of symptoms of depression.

Giving an update on the planned new mental health unit in Omagh, a Western Trust spokesperson said: “The core team responsible for the delivery of the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex remain in place to complete decommissioning arrangements for both the Tyrone County Hospital and Omagh Health Centre.

“This team will be available to undertake project management activity following any future business case approvals for the proposed Mental Health facility or other major capital developments in the southern sector of the Trust.”

The Trust stated that the proposed new Omagh Centre for Mental Health would accommodate a Crisis Response Home Treatment (CRHT), to include 26 acute inpatient beds with an acute day care facility and the operational base for the Home Treatment Team.

It would also house a unit with eight alcohol and drug beds for individuals with “complex detoxification needs”, as well as a further 20 beds consisting of 10 dementia beds and 10 for older people experiencing functional mental illness.

The unit would also have a therapeutic hub for older people and associated support/ administration/ community services.