Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on Funding Cuts to Mental Health Support Services in South Australia

On Wednesday 1st June 2016, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on radio station Vision Australia to discuss the closure of two mental health facilities and the issues associated with the loss of mental health supports and services in South Australia. Here is the audio and transcript from the interview.

Pam Green: Time now to welcome to 5RPH, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent. Hey Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Hi Pam.

Pam Green: Well look I understand you’re concerned about the imminent closure of two mental health facilities in the north/north eastern suburbs. One is the forensic health facility in Oakden, the other is a wall-in service at Salisbury. What’s going on and why are they closing down so suddenly?

Kelly Vincent: Well I understand Pam that these services are funded through a national partnership agreement which is worth almost $5 million dollars and the federal health minister Sussan Ley has withdrawn funding and the state mental health minister, which of course is Leesa Vlahos says that the state government won’t be able to make up the funding. So now these two really vital services are going to close on the 30th of June. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters who funds it, a solution needs to be found because I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I’m sick of mental health being treated as something of a political football. Both levels of government need to commit the funds because all this does is put pressure on other health services and it will cost more money in the long run if people with mental health issues are not properly supported to recover.

Pam Green: Given the issues you’ve spoken to us about in recent weeks on the shackling of mentally ill prisoners and mental health supports for prisoners more generally, do you think further problems will be created with the removal of these services?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely. Most definitely. Unless adequate services and supports are provided, we’ll end up with people winding up back in jail because they commit minor offences or maybe because they are not coping with being back out in the community unsupported. Without facilities like Oakden step down unit we’re creating a recipe for disaster. If people don’t get the support they need to reintegrate and learn life skills and learn how to cope with day to day life then I think we’re likely to see people reoffend to get back into a familiar environment. So specialist services are exactly that, they specialise and understand the needs of the cliental that they are serving. When you don’t provide those services, the challenges certainly don’t go away they just cascade into other services such as housing, homelessness, emergency departments of our health system and so on. Of course they also cascade into other areas of the mentally ill person’s life. So I understand that 25 health jobs will be lost through the closure of these units. So we certainly need more staff working and understanding mental health, not less.

Pam Green: So what other resource shortages are we seeing across mental health services just generally in South Australia?

Kelly Vincent: Well unfortunately there is no shortage of them. Pardon the pun. I think to start there’s of course the shortage of a specific service for people with Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. Dignity for Disability has done a significant amount of work on this and yet we are still waiting for the state government to fund something to support people with this very misunderstood disorder. I believe very strongly that we need a service similar to Spectrum in Victoria, which is an inpatient service for people with quite severe BPD and it also trains mental health professional and provides information and referrals to family carers, general health services and mental health as well. So it’s certainly it’s about sending that message that just because you have a diagnosis it doesn’t have to be a life sentence with the right supports, recovery is possible. Similar to that I also have concerns about the intensive home based support program. This program funded acute interventions in mental health so that people actually don’t wind up in hospital in the first place because we know that not only is that an incredibly expensive exercise, it’s also not very conducive to recovery if want to be somewhere where you feel understood or welcome and like yourself hospital is not always the best place. So that’s now been defunded, meaning we’ll now see more hospital admissions for mental health issues which is incredibly concerning because it was shown to be a very effective program that was greatly cutting the length of time that people with mental health concerns were spending in hospital.

Pam Green: As always, thanks so much for your time today Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Thanks Pam