Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) is the peak organisation representing the interests of health consumers and carers in the state (as a not-for-profit, registered health promotion charity). Their focus is on consumer engagement that influences and leads improvements and delivers better health outcomes for all Queenslanders so their involvement in the implementation of the Barrett Centre Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) is a logical step.
Queensland Health were proactive in engaging HCQ to assist with consumer and carer engagement as early as possible in the work that follows the COI. HCQ’s Chair (at that time) Mark Tucker-Evans and General Manager Melissa Fox were invited to attend the second Queensland Health Family Briefing and Melissa made a presentation at the first meeting of the Steering Committee overseeing the implementation of recommendations.
From then, in order to best facilitate the input from consumers/carers, HCQ took on an Engagement Advisor specifically to ensure that the community had the best options for involvement in the creation of new services and developments in the area of severe and chronic youth mental health and were well supported throughout. Leonie Sanderson assisted people in providing the bureaucrats and planners with the vital perspective of real world experience of services (or the lack thereof) for young people whose mental health issues are severe and complex.
To plan new services, modify existing ones and implement better strategies, the government MUST know where the gaps lie. They must know what aspects of healthcare, education and other services are effective and which are ineffective. They must come to see how attitudes must change by hearing examples of the negative responses encountered by those seeking assistance. So for members of the public to be able to utilise Health Consumers Queensland to feed information to the government is an extremely useful mechanism. Few consumers/carers can be on committees/working groups – though it has been ensured that there will be as much representation there as possible, thanks to HCQ – because of the demands already on people’s time and energy. So to have alternate means of having a say is essential.
Leonie, Melissa and the HCQ team continue to be dedicated to doing all they can to ensure that anyone who wishes to make a contribution has the opportunity to do so. They understand that there will be people who may wish to remain anonymous. They understand that people will need easy and direct ways to provide their own insights in their own time. And then continue to work to find ways that those directly affected by severe youth mental health issues have opportunities to contribute to the ongoing development of services – most specifically in the area of health but also in other areas of need.