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Acute mental health bed shortage

Acute mental health bed shortage means patients charged with offences

National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott says she’s alarmed that police are charging mental health patients with minor offences to keep them in police cells, because there is nowhere else for the patients to go.

“I can understand the police are doing this to keep the patients and the community safe but the Health Minister should have acted sooner.

“It is nine months since the first reports of mental health patients being locked up in prison cells because there are not enough acute mental health beds, but the Minister has done nothing. Her ‘review’ announced eight months ago to find ‘immediate solutions’ has achieved nothing.

“The problem has even got worse with mental health patients now acquiring criminal records, clogging up the stretched justice system, simply to say in a secure place where there is a bed.

“Giving someone with a mental illness a criminal record just to keep them safe is grossly inappropriate.

“The Waitemata District Health Boards plan for more mental health beds is a start, but the acute shortage of beds needs to be addressed right now.

“National put a sizeable amount of money aside to provide for more beds for the intellectually disabled under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care) Bill. This was to free up beds for those with mental illnesses.

“The Government has stalled this Bill since 1999, dropping it right down the order paper for presentation to Parliament. The Minister is treating mental health patients as second-rate citizens. She must act, instead of proposing reviews which don’t address the real problems,” Dr Scott said.

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