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Child and Youth Mental Health

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 30 May 2019

Tags: Ambulance Ramping, Ambulances, Children and Young People, Young People, Mental Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: child and youth mental health.

We know that 60 000 Tasmanians live in mental health distress every year. They suffer financial distress and social and financial impacts on their families and communities. I will talk about child, adolescent and youth mental health. The Tasmanian health system and funding for the Tasmanian community health sector is woefully inadequate. It is failing to respond to the situation young people and children are facing.

The Auditor-General's report looked at the situation in emergency departments. In that process it noted the cultural problems in the Department of Health and the Tasmanian Health Service as well as bed-block, the rising amount of ambulance ramping and the lengths of time people are waiting in the emergency department.

We need to look at the situation for children and young people in this context. So much of the focus is on adults, but children and young people in desperate need of care attend the emergency departments in our hospitals. When they do, there is no place for them to go that provides age-appropriate care, even once they have waited hours and sometimes days by themselves or with a parent or someone else who loves them.

I have been approached by a person who told me she had waited with her daughter for days in the emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital. There was no age-appropriate ward for them to be admitted to. There was no clinical specialist with expertise in young people.

Young people like that are discharged from hospital and have no place to go. They are on a waiting list to go to Clare House, if they are lucky. Most of them are offered a visit to Headspace or their GP. The advice given to the aforementioned woman as she left the hospital was to take her daughter home, make sure the knives are out of the drawer and rope and implements are taken away and to just try to keep her safe.

That struck fear into her heart. She loves her daughter very much. She went home and did not go to work for several months because she was the personal carer of her daughter. She was waiting every day for a phone call from a specialist with an appointment.

I saw the mother a few days ago. She still does not have support for her daughter in an age-appropriate way. She is still undertaking that regular care.

We can do so much better. While the minister and the Government talk about being on a journey towards community care and providing support, we are not seeing any evidence in real dollars and cents and real paid clinical staff, multi-disciplinary teams that create wrap-around care driven by psychologists at the centre with support from social workers, occupational therapists, GPs and all the other specialists needed. That wrap-around care is now understood by the federal Government and by health experts to be the best way to respond to a person in mental health distress.

I was reading through Olivia McTaggart inquest into six young people who tragically took their lives four years ago. What struck me was the trauma that so many young people live through as a result of family violence and a failure of institutions to keep them safe and intervene at appropriate times. Many of the children experienced incidents across their life from the time they were babies all the way through to their middle adolescent years. The Greens understand that we can do more in schools and hospitals and that is why we have chosen to dedicate that money in our budget toward those things.