Taskforce launched on Chief Psychiatrist’s review into complex mental health care

Australian Greens

The ACT Government has today announced a cross-government taskforce to respond to the recommendations of the Chief Psychiatrist’s review into the care, treatment and support for people deemed not guilty because of mental impairment and released into the care of mental health services.

The review by then ACT Chief Psychiatrist Dr Dinesh Arya and three independent external members, found ACT public mental health services were providing high-quality care and support to people who are deemed not guilty because of mental impairment. It makes 35 recommendations for legislative and clinical improvements.

The Government taskforce consists of representatives from ACT Health, Canberra Health Services, Justice and Community Safety, and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and will consider the highly technical report and provide advice on next steps, including implementation of recommendations.

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson welcomed the report, which was initiated after an incident on September 18 last year when an inpatient at the Gawanggal Mental Health Unit, who had been granted approved leave from the mental health facility, allegedly went to the Australian National University and assaulted multiple people.

“This review was vital to ensure that the rights of people found not guilty because of mental impairment are balanced with concerns for the safety of themselves and the community,” Minister Davidson said.

“I thank Dr Dinesh Arya and the other review panel members for their comprehensive efforts. The review’s recommendations aim to strengthen legislative provisions, clinical practice and better support agencies involved in the treatment, care or management of persons deemed not guilty because of a mental impairment. Any recommendations will be implemented in consultation with consumer and carer advocacy organisations.

“Leave from a mental health facility serves an important function for people in their treatment, care, support, rehabilitation and return to the community. It strengthens their support networks and strategies to keep them mentally healthier when they are back in the community. This review provides recommendations to improve and bolster processes around leave management.”

The recommendations include consideration of changes to legislation and internal government processes as well as improved communication and information sharing between services.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the report makes complex and technical recommendations which the ACT Government will review and implement in consultation with stakeholders.

“There are recommendations in this report that seek to strengthen community safety, particularly ACAT’s powers around conditional release orders and involuntary orders. We will consult with stakeholders on how to best implement these recommendations and ensure that our justice system meets the needs and safety of both individuals and the broader community,” the Attorney-General said.

The expanded review panel consisted of:

  • Clinical and forensic psychologist, Distinguished Professor James Ogloff AM
  • Forensic psychiatrist and New Zealand’s Director of Mental Health, Dr John Crawshaw
  • Barrister and Senior NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal Member, Dr Juliet Lucy
  • Carers ACT chief executive, Lisa Kelly

The report can be found online here: https://www.health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/data-and-publications/reports

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