Before this site, there was savebarrett …
In November 2012, a Queensland inquiry into child protection was told of the likely closure of an inpatient Adolescent Psychiatry Unit where young people with severe mental health issues had access to treatment, services and education. This confirmed the scrapping of the previous state government’s plans to relocate the centre to a purpose built facility as the new/current government set aside the extensive planning for that move that had already been undertaken and diverted the allocated funds elsewhere. As THERE WAS NO OTHER FACILITY IN QUEENSLAND that provided the long term and intensive therapy that is vital to reducing the suffering caused by adolescent mental illness and suicide, an online petition was set up to urge the Queensland government to Save the Barrett Adolescent Centre. The closure was put on hold while an expert panel was set up to consider the mental healthcare needs of Queensland’s young people. A CommunityRun petition with 4000+ signatories* was entered into parliamentary records on 5 March 2013 along with a parliamentary e-petition with 1000+ signatories sponsored by Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller – who both advocated to keep the Barrett Centre operational. However, on the 6th of August 2013, the Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, announced that the Barrett Centre at Wacol would close. The recommendations of the expert panel were not revealed – despite requests from media, parents and many with a stake in the centre’s ongoing operation – until after the closure was announced and those recommendations indicated that experts considered the Barrett model of extended patient treatment and rehabilitation with on-site schooling ESSENTIAL.
From August 2013 to January 2014, those advocating for the Barrett young people and their families met with Executives of West Moreton Hospital and Health Service (under whose supervision the Barrett Centre fell), Children’s Health Queensland (the group with the responsibility for future adolescent mental health services) and the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner to stress the need for appropriate replacement services and the importance of a gradual, recovery-based transition for the current patients. The likelihood of patient suicide if such provisions were not in place was stated regularly and requests were made for flexibility of the closure date. However, despite all community and professional attempts to warn and inform, the Barrett Centre closed in January 2014 and, under the LNP government of the time, there were NO PLANS to relocate the centre to either a purpose-built or pre-existing facility.
IN THE 7 MONTHS FOLLOWING THE CLOSURE, THREE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN TRANSITIONED FROM THE BARRETT CENTRE COMMITTED SUICIDE. Those who knew them and their circumstances strongly believe that they would still be alive if Queensland had a Tier 3 facility for adolescent sufferers of severe mental illness. But the rushed transition to treatment/residential options that could not offer the stability, security and wrap-around care of an extended inpatient treatment service with onsite schooling has meant that three treasured young people have died and their friends and families will continue to be impacted by such tragic loss in troubling circumstances.
A report into the closure and transition of patients was commissioned by the then Director General of Queensland Health, Ian Maynard, in October 2014 but it DID NOT INCLUDE investigation of the treatment options that patients were transitioned to OR any input from patients, families, education staff or post-transition staff. However it still found that there had been an artificial administrative deadline for closure and that the process had occurred within “an atmosphere of crisis … with escalation of distress in a number of the adolescents and staff”..
In December 2014, the State Coroner announced that there would an inquest into the three deaths.
In February 2015, the Queensland government changed. After a protracted assessment of results, the Queensland Labor Party was invited to form a minority government (with the support on independent MP, Peter Wellington). Throughout her period in Opposition and in the lead-up to the state election, Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk promised a Commission of Inquiry into the Barrett Centre Closure and the development of a new Tier 3 facility to replace the Barrett Centre.
In July 2015, a Commission of Inquiry into the closure – to begin within months – was announced.
Retired Supreme Court and former Mental Health Court judge Margaret Wilson headed the Inquiry, launched on 14 September 2015. Those who support Barrett remained hopeful that this would be an opportunity for those affected by the closure to finally be heard, acknowledged and supported; for justice in relation to the tragic loss of three young lives and the impairment of many more; AND for the foundation to be laid for the best future service provision for those who suffer due to severe/complex adolescent mental health issues
Once the report of the Commission of Inquiry was handed down, the government highlighted the main recommendations and committed to adopting them all. This website aims to chronicle the progress of new initiatives, support mechanisms and particularly, the ways that any member of the public interested can get involved to contribute to what is needed for the future. .
* An email sent to signatories of the CommunityRun petition during the 2015/16 Commission of Inquiry into the closure of the Barrett Centre describes a visit to the Centre by the petition initiator in May 2013 (click left to read)