Page 4142 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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hospital, even catering for people who need to dry out from alcohol and drug consumption. This is a vague, ill-thought-out proposal and one which ignores the complex issues surrounding care for a whole range of people who face problems with mental illness.

Mr Smyth: Which is why it has got so much support.

MR CORBELL: It has so much support because it means everything to everyone, but how do you make it work and how do you target the level of care? It is a poorly thought through proposal; it is a simplistic panacea designed to avoid the more complex issues surrounding mental health care in our community. Rather than proposing this rather vague concept as a solution for all the issues within the mental health system, which is what Mr Smyth is doing, the government is undertaking a comprehensive service development and planning approach that provides specific responses to each of these groups rather than a single, simple, panacea, catch-all proposal that everyone will like but ultimately, if it was ever built, would satisfy no-one.

The government has also responded to the need for improved services for people with a mental illness through the work we have done in forensic mental health care, which was commissioned through a whole-of-government process by the Chief Minister last year. Cabinet agreed to the proposal for care of forensic mental health clients in May this year. It includes a strong community focus for forensic mental health care, supported by access to a proposed new, high-security unit for those who require specialist inpatient care. This proposed service is based on the well-respected forensic care model and is underpinned by national forensic principles.

Today, I had the pleasure of launching the new suicide prevention strategy for the ACT, which will allow us to have a coordinated approach to managing and, hopefully, reducing the incidence of suicide in the ACT. The incidence of suicide in the ACT is below the national average. Nevertheless, every suicide is a tragedy; every suicide is an incident that we should seek to prevent.

Mr Smyth also mentioned issues to do with supportive accommodation and housing for people with a mental illness. Mental Health ACT has already entered into an agreement with Housing ACT which is designed to establish a partnership approach to improve access to housing options and support for people with a mental illness. The ACT homelessness strategy also identifies, as one of its priorities, the housing needs of people with a mental illness.

In all these areas, I know, as health minister, there is much more work to be done. As a society, as an Australian society, we face serious challenges in addressing the disadvantage, the isolation and the lack of comprehensive care that people with a mental illness all too often encounter. But what I am trying to outline today is the significant work that is being done to tackle and address these issues. I do not run away from these problems. I do not seek to suggest that they do not exist. What I seek to articulate today, and on every other occasion, is the focus on improving, on building our capacity and providing more resources and developing a comprehensive and humane framework for supporting and caring for people with a mental illness.

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