In April a petition of 9,500 signatures was submitted to our State Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg. This second petition is to remind our decision makers that we have not forgotten these demands. Our community demands a range of services for our adolescents and young adults up to the age of 25 in FNQ. Currently if an adolescent is acutely unwell, there is nowhere for them but on the paediatric ward, maternity ward, emergency department, or Adult Mental Health ward with a Special Nurse. There is nowhere for them to go to prevent them from becoming acute, or to provide the care they need once they are no longer acute. For our 18-25 year olds we have the Time Out House, to provide the 'Step Down' care they need to be able to return to the community and a full life. The one precious resource we do have in Cairns, has no permanent funding and is under threat of closure.
At one end of the mental health journey to wellness is the Barrett Centre. It is the only long term therapeutic facility for seriously unwell adolescents IN THE STATE. It has 15 beds and many on the waiting list. It has an excellent and proven track record of 20 years. It includes an award winning school, an essential part of the treatment. Many teens from FNQ have been through its doors. The Barrett centre is to be closed in early 2014. That would be ok if the whole model and all the expertise were to be moved to a new location. However, there is every reason to believe that this funding will then be diluted and shared throughout the State of Queensland, leaving all Queenslanders with nowhere for these adolescents to go.
I am told that the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital Board has no funding for a dedicated adolescent mental health ward. It would be very expensive. The emphasis is on community based facilities. Plus there is no space in our hospital. So we propose that a much more economical Day Care Unit be set up that will meet the needs of our young across the spectrum of care. Adolescents and young adults can go home at nights to their families. This will act preventatively and we will not need so many acute beds, but for those who need it, there will be a small acute unit on the premises. Based on the model at Toowoomba, there will be therapists and other allied health specialists needed working at the unit, including an education component. Community services and all those who work with our young will be involved, running programs, activities etc. As the expertise will be there, we can have a mini Barrett, with some longer term beds for those who need that level of care. The building should be reasonably close to the hospital.
Families, desperate for appropriate care for their seriously ill adolescents have to face the agony of sending them away to Brisbane (Adolescent Mental Health ward), away from the supports they need to get well. That's if they can even get a place for them. We lose young people to suicide because they cannot get the care they need in their community.
Townsville has such a facility due to open next year. This is NOT viable for the young of FNQ for two reasons - the young of the Townsville and Hinterland area will obviously take up this entire facility, and travelling to Townsville is less practical than to Brisbane. The cost of airfares is much higher and for families trying to balance jobs, other children and supporting their unwell adolescent, it is no more viable than Brisbane based facilities.
As a community, we ask: Why are there the facilities we demand in Toowoomba and Townsville, and not here? We have a long term, well documented and reported crisis in our mental health services in FNQ, especially for our young.
We demand that lives be saved and this care to be available HERE in FNQ.
It has been 4 months since we all supported this campaign by signing the first petition. Let's revive that momentum and tell our decision makers that we are serious. The first petition was a triggering factor for the workshop for all mental health services on September 12th. We can tell the Hospital Board, State Director of Mental Health and our politicians exactly what we want. Don't wait until your family needs this local mental health care for your young people. Sign this second petition now and I will represent your support for this cause at this workshop. We only have a couple of weeks so please spread this all over FNQ. PLEASE DO NOT SIGN IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN OR HAVE A CONNECTION WITH FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND.