The Queensland Premier announced today that a new facility for young people with severe and complex mental health issues would be built in the grounds of Prince Charles Hospital at Chermside in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. A site visit was then made where Premier Palaszczuk and Health Minister Cameron Dick were joined by community members directly affected by the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre in January 2014. The Minister had met with families linked to the Barrett Centre yesterday to update them on the progress of the government’s response to the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the closure and reassure them that health service consumers and carers would continue to play a significant role in planning and developments. He indicated that it was a priority that the statewide service to replace the support lost when Barrett closed was sustainable and embedded in the system and that the location for the new 12-15 bed facility had been chosen because of, among other things, its access to comprehensive medical support, transport (including Brisbane airport to enable easier access for regional families) and community amenities (recreational activities, shops, local schools).
The model of care will be developed in the coming months with workshops scheduled for October 20 & 27 and November 10 and a Project Oversight Group being assembled – both of which require significant involvement from people with lived experience of adolescent mental health issues. However the Minister stressed that, like the Barrett Centre before it, one of the key tenets of the new centre would be a focus on integrated education and training as well as health treatment services and his collaboration with the Minister of Education would be ongoing in order to achieve this.
To coincide with the site announcement, Health Consumer’s Queensland launched a webpage dedicated to the COI response and a SURVEY that they’re urging anyone with experience/ideas/feedback to complete. The commitment to “co-design” (balanced collaboration between service providers and consumers) is emphasised by the engagement of HCQ to facilitate community involvement in the actions responding to the Inquiry recommendations and, with the understanding that those who have important insights might also experience challenges with sustained in-depth participation, there are – and will be – a number of ways that the public can have their say and remain informed of progress of new developments and initiatives. The HCQ webpage and the Get Involved! page at severeyouthmentalhealth.org will be regularly revised to inform the public on ways individuals can be included. The online survey has been developed to be easily accessible and can be completed anonymously with no ongoing contact required. But there are also options for greater involvement with consumers/carers encouraged to ‘have their say’ in the development of the most effective services and policies in the method that suits them best. It must be emphasised that although these recent developments bode well for the future, there is still much to be done that must be carefully considered and implemented and, historically, this area of healthcare has been catastrophically mishandled. So it’s vital that the community remains vigilant and as involved as possible to ensure the best outcomes.
Today’s announcements, coinciding with Mental Health Week, cannot pass without remembering those we’ve lost. There may be hope for a better future for some but there are people whose lives will be forever changed because Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker found themselves in circumstances that led them to end their young lives. Whilst we recognise that they will continue to remind us of the changes that must be made in attitudes, systems and services, we also send out thoughts and good wishes to their families and friends, whose suffering continues. It is hoped that the Coroner will expedite an inquest into the tragic deaths of these three treasured teenagers not only to develop recommendations to ensure others in the future are protected from similar vulnerability but to provide some long-awaited answers for their families.