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Mental health patients charged with offences

Mental health patients charged with offence to keep in cells

Auckland mental health clients who are kept in police cells for longer than six hours are now being charged with a minor offence so they can stay in the cells, PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said today.

“As a result of a directive by the Ministry of Health that clients must not be detained in police cells for longer than six hours, and with nowhere else for them to go, they are now being charged with minor offences in an effort to keep them and the community safe.”

Richard Wagstaff said while it was unacceptable that mental health clients were kept in police cells, PSA mental health workers had no alternative safe place for them.

“Our members are faced with an impossible situation. There are insufficient beds available so they must seek alternative safe accommodation. The Ministry has determined that staff are unable, where acute beds are unavailable, to keep clients in police cells beyond six hours. If they cannot keep clients in police cells they must place them on the street where they may be a danger both to themselves and the public.”

Currently CATT West has two acutely unwell clients who require acute admission, no beds are available, one is being held in a police cell and there will have to be a decision made about where to place the other client.

Richard Wagstaff said it was pleasing to see the proposal by Waitemata District Health Board to spend increased funding on mental health but that was not of great assistance to mental health workers dealing with daily crises right now.

“The extra money and facilities announced by Waitemata DHB will address problems in the medium to long term. Our members need immediate help.”

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