Page 175 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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government will continue to develop initiatives in this area. These will include a bush healing centre for people with drug and alcohol problems.

Of course, health and community care services are also key issues for older people in our community. Accommodation services for older people are key and have been the focus of a specific ACT government strategy. But services that can maintain the health and independence of older people in the community are equally important. These services are essential for assisting older people to maintain their quality of life and to continue to make a contribution to our community.

Our initiatives in this regard include improving rehabilitation services and establishing a sub and non-acute facility at the Calvary Hospital; establishing an intermittent care service to provide focused support services for older people who are leaving hospital; expanding the home and community care program; and developing and implementing innovative approaches to respite care.

We have focused very strongly on improving access to dental services. Recurrent funding of an additional $500,000 commenced in the 2003 financial year, and this was used to reduce the waiting time for dental services and has now achieved the best results on record. At the start of July 2003, 2,878 clients were waiting, on average, 22 months for restorative services. At 30 October this year, there were only 1,097 waiting, and the waiting time is down from 22 to 5.5 months—a very considerable decrease and improvement. The government will continue to focus strongly in this area and we have allocated additional funding as part of our election commitments to improve these results further.

Alcohol, tobacco and drugs remain another key area for the government. They are major causes of health and social problems in the ACT and, recognising this, the government released its alcohol, tobacco and drug strategy early this year. We will continue to implement this strategy, with election commitments to fund further implementation, including measures to continue to reduce smoking rates and exposure to tobacco smoke; extra methadone and buprenorphine places to support people to stop using heroin; needle and syringe vending machines to provide greater access to clean injecting equipment and to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases; enhancing school-based alcohol and drug education programs; and improving our case management for people with complex drug and alcohol problems.

Turning to mental health: this is a critical area for the government. There are several key areas for activity in the coming months. Firstly, the government will be focusing strongly on the provision of men’s supported accommodation. We currently have 30 rehabilitation beds at the Brian Hennessy Rehabilitation Centre, 65 places in group homes, 18 places in respite accommodation and 100 outreach places managed by community services organisations. To expand: the government will be increasing expenditure by over 55 per cent to community ambulatory mental health services. The Australian average is 37 per cent, so our funding in the community sector is well above the national average and we are improving the services available.

Despite this, though, there is considerable pressure on inpatient beds. We propose to increase staffing numbers in the community mental health teams to increase the capacity to manage more people in the community and reduce the stress on inpatient facilities.

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