No funding to address ‘critical shortfalls’ in prison mental health services

Greens spokesperson for corrective services Hon Alison Xamon MLC has expressed her frustration as answers to her questions in parliament last night revealed that the WA State Government has allocated no funds in the 2019-20 budget to address understaffing of prison counselling and mental health services in WA prisons.  

 “This situation is simply unacceptable,” said Ms Xamon. “This is an issue I have raised time and again. The coroner recently identified ‘critical shortfalls’ in these essential mental health services, and recommended the Department of Justice take ‘urgent steps’ to recruit more staff, yet despite an increase of over $100 million across the prison budget, there is no funding specifically to address this gap” said Ms Xamon.

Ms Xamon said that the evidence base of the significant need was extremely well established with 40 per cent of prison entrants reporting a previous diagnosis of a mental health condition and a recent study showing that people in prison are 10 times as likely as the general Australian population to report a history of suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide within the previous 12 months.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Government is continuing to take such a short-sighted approach to addressing the health, mental health, and broader rehabilitation needs of prisoners. This short-sighted approach costs the community more in the longer term, both through increased costs to our health services, and to the costs of failing to address the underlying causes of offending,” said Ms Xamon.