A career in the management of mental health services in the South East has concluded this week with the retirement of Kilkenny man David Heffernan.
As Head of Service/Mental Health of South East Community Healthcare since June 2019, David Heffernan has been centrally involved in the HSE response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that time, David worked with colleagues across the mental health services to safely maintain inpatient, residential and community mental health services in a challenging environment. Since taking a senior management role eight years ago, David Heffernan has been responsible for overseeing continued development of mental health services locally and regionally, whilst also addressing many of the challenges presented to the services.
In particular, David Heffernan has always been committed to the development of a recovery focused mental health service and has been instrumental in ensuring that service user involvement is central to the provision of mental health services in the South East.
David Heffernan joined the South Eastern Health Board (SEHB) in 1990, taking a post as Workshop Manager at St. Dymphna’s Hospital, Carlow. Previously, David had served in positions in the manufacturing industry and managed the Rehab Group Centre in Waterford. In 1998, David Heffernan was appointed the Regional Manager of the SEHB’s Task training and recovery support service based in Kilkenny.
David’s experience of working closely with patients, their families and various complements of mental health staff was drawn on when he took up the role in 2014 as the HSE’s Service Manager for mental health services in the Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary area.
Shortly after the establishment of the South East Community Healthcare organisation, David became a General Manager in its mental health services in 2016 and three years later was appointed as Head of Service for mental health services across counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.
As he retires this week, David Heffernan says it has been “a privilege from day one” to help those in need of mental health support across community, residential support and inpatient settings.
David also paid tribute to the diligent cohorts of mental health staff colleagues, for whom patient care remains a priority throughout all the components of service delivery.
Acknowledging that the period of time since the declaration of the international pandemic in March 2020 has been an enormously challenging time for everyone in the health services, David Heffernan says he is very proud of how staff, patients, their families in both cases and so many others in the community have co-operated to ensure people received treatment and support.
Dr. Stephen Browne, the Executive Clinical Director for Mental Health with HSE/South East Community Healthcare, noted the contribution and leadership role taken by David Heffernan during challenging times in recent years for mental health services in the South East region.
Dr. Browne said that along with other colleagues, David was integral to implementing a strategy which mitigated the impact of the pandemic on service users and residents in Mental Health Commission approved centres across the South East region.
Furthermore, said Dr. Browne, David Heffernan played a significant role in establishing structures within mental health services which have resulted in significantly improved regulatory compliance.
On behalf of HSE/South East Community Healthcare, its Chief Officer Kate Killeen White thanked David Heffernan for his continued commitment and leadership.
The Chief Officer said David was a colleague dedicated to the SECH’s commitment to the ongoing provision of a quality and safe mental health service to the population it serves.
On behalf of all his HSE colleagues in the South East, Kate Killeen White said she wished David and his family well as he retires from decades of distinguished service to the public in the South East.