Mental health crisis in SA

Issue 

By Philippa Stanford ADELAIDE — South Australia's mental health services were under-funded, disorganised and excluded some patients, according to a report prepared for Disability Action and the Health and Social Welfare Council. The report, "Beyond Back Wards and Boarding Houses", says little has changed since the introduction of the National Mental Health Strategy, agreed to by all states in 1992. Despite SA's claims to world class psychiatric facilities and services, clients are struggling to gain access to psychiatrists, acute care, accommodation and rehabilitation. Some patients are "locked out" of the system because their illness is considered not acute enough. A spokesperson for the health minister dismissed the report saying the government wanted "real information, not just political activism" from consumer groups. He also claimed that funding for community services had doubled in last year's budget. However the executive director of the Australian Psychiatric Disability Coalition, Frances Nelson, supported the report's findings. "The SA government is failing to hear what the consumers are saying they need." "They're certainly doing things, but they're not the appropriate things. They've downgraded Glenside at a great rate ... and they've closed Hillcrest Hospital, but there's nothing there to catch the people who they're shoving out of the institutions." Democratic Socialist candidate Melanie Sjoberg told Green Left Weekly that "the crisis in mental health facilities is part of the overall funding crisis, and moves towards privatisation threaten other SA health facilities. We need 'political activism' against these threats to essential social services."

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