Page 214 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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MS CASTLEY (Yerrabi) (10.47): As the shadow minister for health and mental health, I am pleased to welcome Canberra’s first community Safe Haven cafe pilot, and join the minister in congratulating the steering group and everyone involved in bringing this to fruition. Any health initiatives to improve care for people with mental health concerns is welcome.

In her statement, the minister said that the government have been investing in a range of strategies to address the demand on the emergency department—and invest they must, because the situation is dire.

My first question in question time in my new portfolio of health and mental health was to Minister Davidson on Tuesday. I referred to the 2022 Report on Government Services, which reveals that only 41 per cent of mental health presentations at Canberra hospitals were seen within a clinically recommended time frame. To put it another way, that is three in five Canberrans turning up at Canberra hospitals for mental health care and not getting the treatment they need on time.

And there is worse. The ROGS also reveals that Canberra is by far the worst performing state or territory in the country for meeting clinically recommended wait times for psychiatric care. The national average is 68 per cent.

What is also of real concern is that the situation has been worsening over a number of years. Three years ago, 58 per cent of patients, almost three in five, were seen on time. Now, as the figures reveal, only two in five mental health patients are getting the timely care that they need.

While there was a 3.5 per cent improvement between 2018-19 and the 2019-20 time frame, the system is still woefully inadequate. What is going wrong? Why are people with mental health needs not getting the timely care that they need? And why are the figures getting worse each year?

The ACT has been the worst performing state or territory for the last three years, which shows the Labor-Greens government has done little to improve care for mental health patients. We know that the pandemic has had a big impact on people’s mental health, and it is appalling that we are going backwards in the care that we provide. More Canberrans with mental health challenges will be seeking care, and I am concerned that this will put even more strain on a system that is already struggling to cope.

I am interested in the community Safe Haven cafe pilot, and note the delivery partner, Stride Mental Health, who run two safe spaces in New South Wales. I look forward to following the progress of the pilot. I am keen to know more information beyond what the minister has shared in her statement. For example, who will staff the Safe Haven pilot in Belconnen, open from 4.30 until nine, Tuesday to Saturday? The minister said Safe Haven cafe would offer peer-based support. Does this mean that there will be a counsellor or a psychologist to see people who need support? I am also curious to know what pathways are available for people who turn up at the cafe and need further support, and how that will be managed so that people needing care are guided through the system.

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