Oakden is a Disgrace But Until We Increase Funding Closing It Down Won't Fix The Problem

The Greens support the decision to shut down the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service but say the developments are a sign of the dearth of support and funding that exists within this part of the mental health sector as a Government responsibility that can no longer be shirked. 

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Tammy Franks Greens MLC stated: “Oakden should be shut down. But that alone will not solve the problems identified in the Chief Psychiatrist’s report. The documented ‘culture of cover-up’ and terrible cruelty exposed by the report was also a culture created by chronic lack of adequate funding.

“Facilities like Oakden should rightly be made accountable for their mistakes and staff for their gross misconduct with those in care, but Governments have the ultimate responsibility to ensure funding and resources is not also the problem at the core of those toxic cultures and conditions.

“It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure these services are sufficiently funded to support staff to provide the quality of care we expect in the 21st century. Otherwise, we will see these horrific mistakes of our past haunt our future.

Some of the patients currently at Oakden are suffering from Huntington’s disease. This is a middle to older age onset disease without a cure that is marked by a sufferer experiencing bouts of anger, involuntary movement, intellectual, emotional and behavioural problems as well as high rates of suicide and self-harm.

“Across the state, in recent years we have seen beds for people with Huntington’s disease stripped out of the system, they already had few places to go and now they have one less with the closure of Oakden.

“They (Huntington’s sufferers), and their families, urgently need not only the support of a caring and well-resourced service. According to evidence given at a recent Transforming Health select committee hearing things are getting worse, not better. There are two-thirds fewer beds than just a few years ago, down to eight from 24, no funding at all for regional support and only two social workers stretched to meet the needs of hundreds of sufferers within the greater Adelaide metro area. Meanwhile, departments and jurisdictions pass the blame around in the very same style of the culture of cover-up exposed by the Oakden report.

“The inadequate funding for Huntington’s disease is of course just one example, we must meet the needs of all those living with a mental illness, who are vulnerable and rely on state services in order to survive, and this must be a state budget priority in June if not earlier. They deserve better from this Government,” she concluded.

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