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Secure Intellectual Disability Unit to open

MEDIA RELEASE 7 June 2006

Secure Intellectual Disability Unit to open 8 June at Mason Clinic

Waitemata DHB is opening its new Intellectual Disability secure unit at the Mason Clinic, at 9.30am on 8 June 2006.

Known as the Pohutukawa Unit, the $6 million intellectual disability unit is a new addition to the forensic psychiatry facilities at the Mason Clinic. Pohutukawa will provide care for people with intellectual disability who are convicted or charged with offences. The Unit will provide care for people north of Taupo, and may also provide for those outside of this area on request from the Ministry of Health.

“There has been a gap in service provision for people with intellectual disability who offend since around 1992,” says Dr Sandy Simpson, Clinical Director of the Mason Clinic. “Up until 2003, these people were often inappropriately placed in the nation’s prisons, placed into forensic psychiatric services, or they were managed in the community. Then the law changed allowing recognition of intellectually disabled offenders and the need for specialised care and rehabilitation. This is a new service is part of a spectrum of services established to meet the requirements of the new legislation and provide appropriate care for this group.”

The purpose-built 12-bed Pohutukawa Unit is large at 1400 square metres, including some office space which supports the community team for intellectually disabled offenders, as well as the inpatient team.

The Mason Clinic expects that there will be considerable demand for this service, with the service providing security, care and rehabilitation to a high standard.

A new feature of the unit to NZ is the Snoelezen Room. This is a sensory integration room designed to assist in managing aggression and better engage the patient. It is based on evidence from similar services in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Snoelezen Room includes a specialised range of audio-visual and tactile equipment through which sensory experiences can be used to assist the intellectually disabled person to more appropriately express anger and frustration. Often as a result of limited communication and lower frustration tolerance intellectually disabled patients can be hindered in their ability to safely and appropriately manage negative emotions.

Dr Simpson says that often intellectually disabled patients who have offended can alienate their families and communities.

“Our aim is to overcome the obstacles and reintegrate the patient into their family and whanau, and hopefully their wider community,” he says. “It’s about developing a culture of building bridges, bearing in mind community safety. A full range of clinical and support skills will be provided to achieve these outcomes..”

The Mason Clinic is the largest inpatient forensic psychiatric facility in the country providing inpatient beds and community-based services as Auckland’s regional forensic psychiatry service.

It currently has 94 inpatient beds, with differing levels of security ranging from extended secure to open hostel.

The Mason Clinic was first developed in 1992, and with steady and on-going growth has seen the commissioning of eight units.

The opening of the Pohutukawa Unit brings the bed capacity at the Mason Clinic site to 106.

ENDS

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