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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 900..


MS TUCKER (continuing):

As the various recent reports have noted, it is not just mental health crisis support that is needed to break this cycle, and there is real and continuing criticism of mental health crisis services in the ACT, which does need to be addressed, such as:

that they often refuse to come when called;

that they dislike some clients and seem happy enough to advise carers of that fact; and

that half the time it is the police who have to provide the necessary intervention.

It is not specifically more crisis support that is needed; it is ongoing contact and support. This is particularly true for people moving out of supported accommodation. There is nothing to be gained from pushing people out into independent living only to see them flounder without the support they need. The lurch from temporary recovery to crisis, or to slow disintegration, is both lonely and debilitating.

Research sponsored by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute looked at what helped people living with mental illnesses to maintain their housing in Victoria. It found that in both private and public tenancy arrangements an ongoing contact and support is necessary. The ongoing outreach contact works because it develops a partnership with the person living with mental illness. When it is a regular check-in, if things are beginning to deteriorate, that can be addressed early. Regular contact means issues can be dealt with early, before the person concerned gets to the stage of seeking extra help.

Toora have gone through the process of assessing their work and the needs of their clients and have found a strong research and evidence basis for outreach work because it is flexible and can deal with individual needs. Toora provided several case studies, and I would like to read a couple of them today. Names have been changed to protect identity.

Gillian is 35 years old and has accessed Lesley's Place via referral from the psychiatric ward at Calvary Hospital. Gillian's diagnosis is bipolar disorder, and she also uses significant amounts of cannabis. She has three children, all of whom are currently residing with their grandparents. She was admitted to the ward after an acute episode and has been involuntarily admitted to the ward nine times in the last 15 years. Lesley's Place has assisted Gillian in making the transition from the hospital back into her government house.

She is extremely unhappy in her house and has put in three priority transfer applications in the past 18 months. This has been because of both actual and perceived violence in her neighbourhood. Her ongoing inability to manage her environment and life with any consistency inevitably leads to her feeling overwhelmed and often results in an episode such as the recent one.

Due to her long history of mental illness, Gillian has very few support networks in place. In the past she has been unwilling to access mainstream mental health services because she has significant difficulties with trust. This distrust has been exacerbated by her numerous involuntary admissions.

She also feels very uncomfortable when she is in an office setting where the focus is solely on her, and this can cause panic attacks. At times she finds using public


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