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Police Cells No Place For Mentally Ill - Bradford

Green MP Sue Bradford will today ask the Health Minister what she is doing to stop mentally ill people being locked up in police cells for up to 36 hours because there are no intensive care beds for them.

Ms Bradford said it was a national outrage that at times no beds were available for seriously mentally ill people and some people are routinely spending time locked in police cells when what they needed was care and treatment.

"It is unacceptable that recently two mentally ill people spent 36 and 24 hours locked in the Henderson police station because there were no suitable psychiatric beds in the whole of the upper North Island.

"Henderson police say mentally ill people are locked in their cells at least once a week and I suspect this is true for other parts of the country. The mentally ill need proper care which simply cannot be provided in prison and keeping them in prison puts these people at serious risk," she said.

"We also need more transparency from Government departments and the District Health Boards about the true impact of the lack of acute beds on police and other social service agencies."

Ms Bradford said the lack of facilities for the mentally ill should concern all New Zealanders.

"I want the Minister of Health to say when we will see some of the money that is going into mental health in the top half of the North Island converted into more acute beds. Psychiatrists are saying the practice of using police cells for the mentally ill is becoming unacceptably normalised and this needs to stop now.

"There is a fundamental difference between people who need mental health care and those who need to be punished. As a society we cannot afford to blur those lines," she said.

"We have to get away from the idea that severe mental illness is not as significant an issue as severe physical sickness or injury.

"The Green Party call on the Government to work towards ending the practice of using police as a substitute for hospital care and treatment."

Sue is asking oral question number four on this issue today


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