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Nation’s Mental Health Crisis - New report exposes dire situation

URGENT funding increases are required to boost supervised accommodation for the mentally ill nationwide, according to a "revolutionary" new study reports Lisa Capozzi in Central 6th February 2008.

Tolkien II, a four-year study conducted by St Vincent's Hospital researchers, found the shortage of supervised accommodation was aiding a vicious circle for sufferers, clogging hospital beds and costing the government millions of dollars in treatment.

"This work is absolutely revolutionary, 1 don't think there is another document in the world like it," said the director of St Vincent's mental health services, Peter McGeorge.

"No one has gone into the details of what is required, and it's based on really solid research."

He said that over recent weekends there had been "one or two" beds available in the state, and that some mental health patients had

been treated in acute care for up to three years.

"This is unacceptable. Without the kind of accommodation we need, we will continue to have 30 to 50 per cent of acute beds blocked.

"The solution is read Tolkien ll, and to the politicians - implement it." The report follows Tolkien, published in 1991, which was written without any data on mental health. Tolkien II is based on figures that for the first time reveal the current dire situation.

According to report author Professor Gavin Andrews, the study has found a 30 per cent increase in budget could treat 60 per cent more people and produce a 90 per cent increase in health gains.

He said 4600 new supervised homes were required around the country at the cost of about $100 million a year for the next four to five years. This would double the number of perma

nent and transitional care places from 51 per 100,000 people to 95.

"The lack of supervised accommodation in the community means that these patients are too often left alone to confront homelessness, lack of medication and alcohol and drugs, often becoming a danger to themselves and others," Prof Andrews said.

"The present crisis in mental health in Australia stems largely from people with psychosis, who genuinely do need to go to hospital, not being able to access urgent care because acute hospital beds are clogged treating

people with -chronic mental health conditions who have nowhere to be discharged to.

"If we discharge them to live in the community, in bedsits or if they are homeless, they don't take their medication and are vulnerable to drugs and alcohol. They then relapse quickly and the whole game starts again,"

Federal Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said: "We are aware there are many challenges in the mental health sector and we will be looking at these through our health reform agenda."

Picture: Phil Rogers - St Vincent's Hospital Aboriginal healthcare professional Kaylene Simon, report author Professor Gavin Andrews and director of St Vincent's mental health services Peter McGeorge.

[Further details of the report can be found at ]