Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (3 March) . . Page.. 677..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Mr Wood also raised the issue of health department transportation for mental illness patients, especially those who do not have a history of violence. I think that is fair enough. It is an option that may be further explored. However, a decision as to whether a mentally ill person required an unmarked police escort or health department, non-police transportation would need to be one very carefully made and entirely authorised and signed off by an appropriate health officer in the interests of community safety. I think that we have to accept that in too many cases there will have to be police services provided for this task.
Mr Smyth's amendments are good ones. They tighten the motion and qualify the call we place on the government and the police in terms of other operational and safety requirements. Mr Speaker, I do urge the government to realise the importance of this motion. I think they are going to support it. I would welcome that.
MS DUNDAS (4.36): I will speak to the amendments and close the debate at the same time. I see the importance of the amendments that Mr Smyth has moved and I think that they will serve to make this motion more workable, but I would like to make it quite clear that I hope that the minister for police and the Minister for Health will communicate to officers in their departments and their areas the true intention of the debate today and that, even though we are leaving in the caveat that, where operationally possible, an unmarked police car should be used, we have expressed the view that the support needs of the person who is mentally ill are considered to be paramount and that every effort should be made to avoid the situation becoming more stressful.
I would like to raise some other issues concerning mental health and the relationship with the legal system. I cannot say it enough times that being mentally ill is not a crime and we must stop treating mentally ill people like they are criminals. We need to look at the other support services. Ms Tucker raised a point concerning the resourcing of the CAT team. Are the CAT staff trained to be able to escort people through to assessment themselves? Why are the police called in the first instance?
I would have preferred to have tabled a more broad-sweeping motion that tried to undo the last number of years of this process and put forward an entire regime change, as it would be, but that would take time to implement and I think that this motion will make a difference from today for people on the ground and we will have the broader debate later and, hopefully, see more changes to support people in our community with mental illnesses.
There is a need for a time-out facility so that people do not actually get called in for an assessment or have the CAT team order an assessment, but instead say to themselves, "I'm not feeling okay. I need a few days to work things out before they reach crisis point."Also, there is a need for secure forensic facilities so that people with mental illnesses are not asking to go to the BRC as it is the only place they feel safe. A remand centre is not the right place for people with mental illness to get support for their illness and proper treatment.
There are many different issues that need to be addressed in the broader debate, but what we are doing today is we are requiring one very simple thing to be done and it is one thing that will make a difference. I thank the Assembly for their support and I hope that