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Minister Must Address Mental Health Problems

Minister Must Address Mental Health Problems

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today called on Health Minister Annette King to consider changes to Labour's mental health policy, in light of reports that an Auckland couple now lives in fear after the release of their son who, they have been told, has paranoid schizophrenia.

"This situation highlights the difficulties faced by medical profesionals and families. While community care began as a useful initiative, it has now become an unbalanced situation with almost zero institutional care," Mrs Roy said.

"With the widespread use of recreational drugs having increased over the years, mentally ill users are also becoming harder to control, and doctors can only be asked to admit the most serious cases - a lack of beds can only be changed at a political level.

"Auckland's predicament is particularly severe, and on-call medical and nursing staff are expected to make risky decisions on a regular basis. Meanwhile, last year's closure of the Rangituhi Unit has worsened Wellington's mental health situation - now that most long-term mental health beds have ben closed, the number of acute beds is dramatically reduced.

"In the face of such serious problems - and the growing number of patients who slip through the cracks of our fragmented mental health system - the Labour Government has steadfastly refused to act.

"Instead, Health Minister Annette King places as many layers of responsibility between her self, and the decisions affecting patients, as possible. She now has the perfect position - whereby she gives the direction, but medical professionals get the blame when things go wrong.

"This problem will not go away until the Minister takes some responsibility. Government policy must change. We will continue to see more and more situations like this one, and tragedies, if a series of inquiries habitually blames the last person to care for the patient - as we saw with the cases of Lachlan Jones and Mark Burton," Mrs Roy said.

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