Question without notice: Corrections mental health facilities | Sue Pennicuik

Question without notice: Corrections mental health facilities

My question is for the Minister for Corrections. Yesterday it was reported that Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has joined a growing list of judges who are critical of the shortage of psychiatric treatment for people in custody. He was so concerned about one young man who urgently needed help that he was considering releasing him on bail despite him remaining a risk.
Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 12:30pm
Speaker:
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Corrections. Yesterday it was reported that Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has joined a growing list of judges who are critical of the shortage of psychiatric treatment for people in custody. He was so concerned about one young man who urgently needed help that he was considering releasing him on bail despite him remaining a risk. He said:

I am not prepared to simply leave this man at the mercy of the system.

This bail application has highlighted and demonstrated the extremely concerning shortage of appropriate psychiatric treatment regimens for those who badly need them and who, for various reasons, need to be kept in custody.

Victoria Legal Aid have said that 25 per cent of their organisation's recipients had mental health issues. Minister, what are you doing to alleviate the crisis of the lack of mental health facilities in corrections facilities?

Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Corrections) — I thank the member for her question. This is a large issue, particularly in the justice system. There is a significant proportion of people in the system who do have significant mental health issues, amongst other issues. We are dealing with an increasing cohort of people who present to the system and indeed to our facilities who do have a range of very complex needs.

This matter has been recognised, and indeed in terms of the last budget there was a historic allocation of moneys directed to mental health issues and mental facilities. This is work that has been done by Justice Health within Corrections Victoria along with the Minister for Health and the Minister for Mental Health. We have had an across-government approach to dealing with this issue, and part of that proposal also was the increase and the expansion of the Thomas Embling Hospital. We have also made sure that there has been a significant expansion of the work of Forensicare, and there is also a significant increase in the amount of mental health provision and mental health beds at the Ravenhall facility.

So we actually have injected significant amounts of resources, and I am happy to present that material to you again as a member of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. We went through some of this some months ago, but I am happy to take you through that and I am also happy for you to be briefed by Justice Health on the specific programs that we have introduced, the ones that we are extending and the general vision and approach that we have in terms of dealing with mental health issues within the corrections system.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — Thank you for your answer, Minister. Yes, I remember questioning you about this very issue at Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings. I acknowledge that some funding has gone to this area, but Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth a couple of months ago said the situation was getting worse and worse. You mentioned the number of people with mental health issues within the corrections system, and I understand it is around a third. What I have always been asking is how many of those people with mental health issues in corrections are actually receiving the treatment they need. What percentage are actually receiving the treatment they need? Also on the Thomas Embling Hospital I understand that is only about 18 beds, and the Supreme Court is saying that that is not going to cover the issues. Do you have further plans for Thomas Embling?

Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Corrections) — I thank the member for her question. As you would be aware, there is an assessment on presentation, and the needs of each and every individual prisoner are assessed, including their mental health needs. That continues to occur, and I think there has been extra effort placed on making sure that we distil the exact mental health needs of each and every prisoner. There is also of course a new 44-bed mental health precinct being built at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. This is a purpose-built precinct that will replace Marrmak and provide co-location of bed-based and outpatient mental health services for women at Dame Phyllis Frost. So it is not just in terms of the men's prisons and in terms of Ravenhall, but it is a perceived need that has now been backed up with resource allocations that will be provided to the women's system as well.

In terms of other specific matters, I am happy to take those matters on notice.