The potential for a new approach based on genuine understanding – Part 1

This week (Tuesday, 30 August), the Steering Committee overseeing the implementation of all the recommendations from the Barrett Centre Commission of Inquiry (COI) met for the first time. The Premier and Health Minister committed to moving rapidly and so the process has hit the ground running.

And it’s a hopeful, if unexpectedly rapid, beginning. Because as well as senior bureaucrats from various government departments, there are two consumer and two carer representatives as committee members. And in contrast to the groups tasked with decision-making about services for the severe and complex youth mental health cohort in the state’s recent past, it seems that these representatives will have the opportunity to truly ‘represent’ those affected by these debilitating and destructive health issues. Thanks to a proactive approach toward collaboration driven by Deputy Director-General (Queensland Health), Dr John Wakefield, the four community reps will be encouraged to seek input from others with lived experience. Those who know what services are available because they’ve accessed them; those who know what doesn’t work because they’ve felt the effects of that lack of understanding for young people whose suffering is profound and complex will have the opportunity to give input. Thanks to the enthusiastic guidance and support of the peak organisation representing the interests of the state’s health consumers and carers, Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ), there will be an ongoing drive to assist and support those actively involved and numerous initiatives to encourage wider input into the development and planning of a new building and associated services as well as improvements in transitions for adolescents moving to adult services and coordination between services for dual diagnosis patients. (Whenever there is a way that community members can contribute, we’ll post about here – on the News on the front page and/or on the ‘Get Involved’ page.)

In the coming days, Part 2 on this topic will outline some specifics of what MIGHT be achieved – the possibilities and potential that exist in relation to developing a full range of integrated services for young people affected by mental health issues. But for now, with the commitment of the four community Implementation Steering Committee members, the dedicated and active presence of HCQ and the tone set by the Premier, Health Minister and the health department ­– from DG Michael Walsh on down – there is finally hope that there will be significantly better support for the people who have been so detrimentally affected by the loss of the Barrett Centre. Nothing can repair the lasting damage. But recognition might make sure that similar damage can never be perpetrated again.

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