INDEPENDENT NEWS

Prison report exposes complete failure

Published: Fri 10 Sep 1999 02:36 PM
Alliance leader Jim Anderton is scathingly critical of the mental health system, following the release of a report showing that 60 per cent of prison inmates have serious mental illnesses and ninety per cent have substance abuse problems.
He's calling it definitive evidence that the National Government has singularly failed to take mental health seriously.
'Institutionalised care of the mentally ill in New Zealand has not been abolished.
We have simply swapped care in mental health facilities for incarceration in prisons. The Government is trying to stuff its mental health failures under the carpet by stuffing the prisons with the mentally ill.'
The report describes mental health as 'grossly underfunded', receiving only 60% of the funding it needs. It finds that one in five prison inmates is suicidal, and ninety per cent have abused or been dependent on alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines or sedatives.
Jim Anderton is outraged that the Government has had the report since March, but kept it under wraps until it could bury the release of the report in the storm of APEC news coverage.
'Successive governments have spent millions of dollars on reports on the mental health system but they simply refuse to do anything about the problem. The result of their failure is that they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons.'
The Alliance is pledging to make the mental health system a priority as the heart of a new government. Jim Anderton said the Alliance would spend $90 million upgrading the system, putting more resources into basic support services, expanding psychiatric hospital care and specialist services and boosting the mental health workforce. The Mental Health Act would be reformed to ensure people with personality disorders receive appropriate treatment.
The Mental Health Commission would be given the strategic leadership role envisaged by Judge Mason, and mental health funding would be ring-fenced from other health expenditure, Jim Anderton said.

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