Government has no plan to tackle drastic shortage of forensic mental health beds: Greens

The Government has not allocated any money for additional forensic mental health beds, nor does it have a plan to meet the desperate need for more, Greens spokesperson for Mental Health Hon Alison Xamon MLC today revealed through Estimates questions today.

Ms Xamon said the Western Australian Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015-25 identified that, in 2014, the number of forensic inpatient beds was less than half what it should be in order to meet demand.

She said the plan identifies a need for 92 beds by 2025.

“The number of forensic beds remains the same as it was in 1995 – despite the prison population having more than doubled since then,” Ms Xamon said.

“Shockingly, there are only 38 forensic beds to cater for more than 5000 people currently being held in prison in WA.”

Ms Xamon said the drastic lack of beds meant prisoners needing urgent mental health treatment were being held at prison, when they should be being transferred to a secure psychiatric facility.

She said the current situation did not allow for effective treatment for psychiatric conditions.

“Rather than meeting their needs, we are exacerbating their conditions,” Ms Xamon said.

“Not only does this have an extremely negative impact on the person, but also on other prisoners and prison staff.

“We know that there is an extremely high prevalence of mental illness among prisoners and that it is a central factor to offending and recidivism,” Ms Xamon said.

“Mental health services for prisoners are not even remotely meeting needs – a stop gap measure has been put in place to try to increase services in prisons, but forensic beds need to be available for critically unwell people. 

“It is deeply problematic that the Government has not made available any funds to improve in this area, contrary to its own plan.”