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Call For Review Of Deinstitutionalisation

Media Release

Friday, 29 September 2008

Democrats Call For Review Of Deinstitutionalisation

Democrats for Social Credit are calling for a review of the deinstitutionalisation agenda which is causing widespread on-going stress to many patients and families trying to cope with inadequate resourcing of services which were supposed to replace residential mental health care, according to DSC leader Stephnie de Ruyter and Health Spokesman David Tranter.

“The change in attitude towards care in the community by the Schizophrenia Fellowship New Zealand (SFNZ) who originally backed deinstitutionalisation, and the alarming number of prison inmates with serious mental Illness (SMI) both point to the stupidity of closing residential mental health facilities, disbanding the experienced professional teams who ran them, and inadequately resourcing the community-based care which was supposed to replace those services” Ms de Ruyter said.

SFNZ's turnaround was spelled out in their 1 Sept. media release in which their chief executive Florence Leota stated, "There are gaps in our current health system, and our families are falling through them...... Families and carers are experiencing emotional distress, emotional exhaustion, burn-out and at its worst, depression addictions and/or chronic illness".

“Equally alarming is the appalling number of people in prison who have a SMI, recently reckoned at over 15 percent of all New Zealand prison inmates, although many believe the figure is much higher” Mr. Tranter said.

“But even at 15 percent that means around 1,000 people in prison who have a SMI. And the reason they are held in prison is, as court judges occasionally tell us, is because there is nowhere else to put them. Studies in the U.S. and Britain show that deinstitutionalisation has led to as much as a 30 percent increase in prison populations. What sort of politically-driven system imprisons people with serious mental illness - and then accuses the public of "stigmatising" mental illness?” Mr. Tranter asked.

Those who implemented the mass closure of residential mental health facilities should read the evidence by which deinstitutionalisation was "justified" in New Zealand. Despite the claim that deinstitutionalisation was endorsed throughout the world the reports in that evidence were all based on the same few projects raising the unanswered question - if the policy was so widely adopted why were so few projects cited? Significantly, those reports contained many warnings such as the need to adequately resource community care - resources which, as SFNZ and other groups such as Caring Communities are now stating, have not been provided.

“It is a blight on our society that frequent police involvement and/or imprisonment is becoming one of the main ways of dealing with mental illness” Ms de Ruyter said.

“It is time to sweep aside the fallacies inherent in the post-deinstitutionalisation era and face the fact that we are failing so many of our most vulnerable citizens” she concluded.


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