Page 4014 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 October 1991

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Ministerial Statement

MR BERRY (Minister for Health and Minister for Sport), by leave: Mental Health Week is now an established event on the health calendar, and this year its theme is "Towards a gentler society".

This Government is particularly concerned about the social and economic disadvantages experienced by people with mental illness and the difficulties that the mentally ill experience with such fundamental rights as access to services, access to housing and access to employment. We see a "gentler society" encompassing the concept of social justice, with people with a mental illness having the right to participate in the decisions which affect their lives.

I would like to outline some of the initiatives that the Board of Health have in place for the treatment of the mentally ill and to achieve a "gentler society", at least for those suffering from mental illness. The Government acknowledges the needs of the mentally ill, and we will continue to do more as economic circumstances allow. The Government has maintained funding for mental health services at approximately the same level as 1990-91 - that is, $5.1m. Funding was also made available in the capital works program for the relocation of the Southside Day Centre.

Recently, Mr Speaker, I had the pleasure of opening the new psychiatry unit at Woden Valley Hospital. That occasion gave staff, members of community organisations and the general public an opportunity to view the new facility. While the previous ward had been a very busy unit, it was never designed for psychiatric purposes. On the other hand, the new unit is very special. It was specifically designed for providing psychiatric care and treatment in a non-institutional atmosphere and environment.

Furthermore, it was constructed in nine months, on budget, for $3.4m. Accommodating 40 beds, with two physically discrete wards for the better care of different types of patient, each ward has its own courtyard and rooms for dining, group and therapeutic activities. There is adequate space for clinical and support staff, and space is available for the possible relocation of the after hours crisis team. I am proud to say, Mr Speaker, that the ACT has one of the best in-patient psychiatry units in Australia.

Another service now available to the mentally ill in the ACT is the service provided by the after hours crisis team. This team is located at Woden Valley Hospital and, as its name implies, provides appropriate treatment for psychiatric emergencies after normal working hours. It is staffed by on-duty psychiatric nurses, with on-call backup from the hospital's psychiatric registrars. Demands on the team have led to a revision of its service priorities. The

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