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Mental Health Amendment Bill 2018

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Tags: Mental Health, Legislation

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Greens I add our support to the Mental Health Amendment Bill. It sounds like it is a change that is important and needed, initiated by the Mental Health Tribunal, supported by the Mental Health Council, mental health consumers and other mental health advocates. We support these changes.

It gives me cause to reflect on issues to do with the capacity for people to have control over their own treatment regimes and the very fine balance that must be struck between their own personal safety and the need for safety of others in certain circumstances when those individuals lack the decision-making capacity themselves to determine what appropriate treatment is for them.

I want to raise with the minister something I have raised repeatedly in budget Estimates about the functioning of the Mental Health Tribunal and the relationships we have with other states. I raised this on behalf of mental health consumers in 2015 or 2016 with the previous Attorney-General, Vanessa Goodwin. I believe I raised it with the current Attorney-General at the following Estimates.

I am not sure whether this matter has been proceeded but in order for people in Tasmania, our tribunal to be able to determine what appropriate treatment ought to be for people, there needs to be a capacity to have clear communication with other states. There are circumstances where people leave the island. They leave of their own behest and travel interstate, whether or not they are in the right mental state to be able to safely do that for themselves. It has happened that people leave the state and do not have access to treatment when they go interstate.

I am personally aware of two cases where there has been harm that has come from this lack of information between state bodies. One of the was the case of a woman whose child absconded. She says her child was released from the psychiatric services at the Royal Hobart Hospital, not into housing nor into care. That person ultimately became homeless. She chose to leave the state. In so doing she lost access to her treatment which had been ordered for her. When she was in Victoria, she ended up living in a car in a very poor state of mental health for many months. Her physical health declined severely and her mental health declined very severely. Fortunately, the mother was able to track down and find her daughter and bring her back to the state. What was apparent was the relationship with the Victorian Health Department and the Tasmanian Health Department was not clearly articulated, the tribunals of both those states.

I come to another far more serious matter which was the murder by the son of two very loving parents in a loving family in Mountain River in 2012. I happened to know the couple; they were well known in the Huon Valley community. They were well respected for their contributions as academics, wonderful people with wonderful children, unfortunately, one of whom was schizophrenic. He had been living in Western Australia and had been under treatment orders in Western Australia. However, the son came back to Tasmania. The Western Australian minister responsible for mental health lost track of the ability, through a lack of procedure articulated between the two states, to be able to order that person to have access to the drugs they needed in Tasmania. The son was living with them happily, but when he went into a dark place, the parents desperately tried to get him onto the medication he had been on in Western Australia. They could not access that treatment order from Western Australia. They were not granted it in Tasmania.

They repeatedly went in desperation to the Royal Hobart Hospital. This is all documented in media and a very sad coroner's report. Another child went to Western Australia to try to get that information and access to the script, however the parents were beaten to death by the son at home in Mountain River. It was a really horrific failure of process, a bureaucratic failure.

In the context of this bill before us today, minister, could you please follow up on those issues because there was a commitment by Dr Goodwin to look into these matters and I have not heard anything. Maybe they have been attended to, but I understand that what is required is an MOU between states.

Ms Archer - Did you write to Vanessa about it?

Dr WOODRUFF - I spoke about it and laid the cases out and she promised to look into it. I did not think I needed to write to her as well.

Ms Archer - No, I was just asking in case there is a paper trail.

Dr WOODRUFF - There would be a paper trail. I can go back and look at the details if we need to; I am very happy to follow this up.

The Western Australian mental health minister said that she had 'lost track' of the mentally ill man who killed his parents in Tasmania. This is something we can fix. There are not many things that we can fix in this space quite so easily but this is something that can be done and it would certainly make it easier for the parents of children under treatment orders or trying to make sure that they keep people that they love safe, not just children, but partners, friends, whoever it is.

That is all I wanted to say on this bill and I am very pleased that this change has been made.