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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 August 2015) . . Page.. 2835 ..

I see that the mental health community teams are expected to increase their contacts with clients by 8,000 per annum as a result of the budget. I am hopeful that the additional funding and the promised 15 additional staff, including seven new staff for the CAT team, will happen soon. They are well overdue. I hope that they will ensure the wellbeing of clients and staff and a better outcome for all involved in that service.

Additional funding for mental health clients who are not eligible for the NDIS needs to be further explained. I will seek a briefing on this issue to ensure that clients are well informed as to what is available to them. As we see the rollout of the NDIS, we are starting to understand that it does not cover everybody who expected to be covered. This was a concern raised for some years on our side of the chamber.

Looking at the facility that Calvary has in the mental health space, ward 2N, I understand that ward 2N deals with some suicidal people but clearly not everyone. During the estimates hearings Mr Smyth raised the case of a young person who was admitted through ED to a general ward because 2N was full and, once beds were available, was discharged into the community rather than admitted to 2N, causing a suicidal young person to be left in the community without appropriate supervision, according to their family. The explanation given was that by having people cross two separate wards during their treatment period, the treatment period was, on average, longer. However, it seems to me that the desire for a shorter overall treatment period in this instance led to inadequate care for this young person.

In the same vein, while I was off on maternity leave I was at the Canberra Hospital with my young baby last month, and I sat with a mother who was there with her teenage daughter, absolutely distraught because she had been in EDs from Calvary to the Canberra Hospital with her suicidal daughter for a total of 13 hours without anyone being available to see her.

Fortunately, just as she reached her own limit of being able to cope and was about to walk out the door, she was taken through for assessment. I can only imagine how the mother’s own mental health was being challenged as she waited and waited to seek help for her daughter. I was absolutely amazed that it would take 13 hours and two emergency departments to even start an assessment on her daughter. The proposed improvements to help the emergency department with patients exhibiting mental health concerns are a positive. I have heard from many families that they have struggled in getting appropriate help for their loved ones whilst waiting at ED.

In conclusion, there is in the budget only a very minor addressing of the staffing risks that we know are an ongoing concern in mental health. We do not have enough nurses and nurse practitioners to staff the facility that we have, let alone an additional facility. I note that the budget has—(Second speaking period taken.)

That the government has announced 10 scholarships to try and address this area seems a bit of a drop in the ocean when you think about the number of people that will be required to staff the facility. However, it is good to see. We see a start to the addressing of mental health patient needs in the two emergency departments, which is also probably quite overdue. We are seeing more long-awaited money for CAT and other community-based teams, and that is welcome.

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