Tasmania’s mental health system needs urgent transformation to better treat people before they end up acutely ill in hospital emergency departments, says the Mental Health Council of Tasmania.
Council chief executive Connie Digolis and council members have called for the implementation of a three point action plan which focuses on early intervention and people getting help at home.
“Quite simply, Tasmanians deserve a preventative, recovery-focussed mental health service – and the time to act is now,” Ms Digolis said.
“We implore our governments to act now and develop a seamless, integrated and people-focused mental health system of world class standard for Tasmania.
“We need a system that allows people, their families and carers to be treated and to recover in their homes, or if necessary, in mental health beds delivered by services working in communities.
“Our call is to take action now and to change the way we deliver mental health care in our state.”
Ms Digolis said while the council recognised that more hospital beds were important, community based mental health supports were vital.
“This includes delivering beds outside of hospitals, instead in the community where people can be close to their family, friends and primary health providers and access services specifically designed to treat people before they need to go to a hospital,’ she siad.
“Our call is to refocus on prevention with community based intervention at its heart.
“We’re talking about people, we’re not talking about beds but a system of care that provides the best outcomes for people.”
Malcolm Hales of East Launceston, who has cared for his wife Kim who has obsessive compulsive disorder, said since his wife was diagnosed in the early 1990s there had been little support for his family.
He said between 1994 and 2006 his wife had travelled to Melbourne for treatment on 14 occasions which had caused significant disruption for the couple’s two children and extended family.
“She was one of the most disabled people with her illness in Australia,” Mr Hales said.
“You need intervention and help and I fully endorse what the council is doing.
“We need a voice for the many silent Tasmanians who are carers.”
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said he had a “fantastic” relationship with the Mental Health Council and welcomed their “very constructive comments”.
“The representations they have made are in line with the Rethink Mental Health plan, which has unanimous support and is being implemented now,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Contemporary mental health practice puts an emphasis on community-based mental health supports to ensure people can recover in more comfortable and familiar settings, closer to their families and their communities, and to improve their chances of avoiding hospitalisation.”
Mr Ferguson said the government’s $95 million mental health plan would provide 25 new community-based mental health beds to support the RHH, and provide new adolescent units in Launceston and Hobart.
“We are also providing a $3.3 million boost to the community sector to support better health in our communities,” he said.
Labor’s health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell supported the council’s call.
“Labor fully supports the Mental Health Council of Tasmania in its call for an integrated mental health system in Tasmania which sees investment in both acute and community based mental health care – not one or the other,” Ms Lovell said.