Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt-Chief Opposition Whip) (19:39): I rise tonight to speak on an issue that is very close to my heart. The mental health of our young people is something that cannot be neglected and we need to be proactive in the very early stages. That being the case, I would like to highlight the Time Out House in Cairns. This program started as a pilot in 2010. It was initially funded by the Queensland government’s Department of Communities and was a collaboration between Centacare Cairns, Far North Queensland Rural Division of General Practise, Youth Link and Aftercare.
Time Out has been crucial for the Cairns community, reducing in-patient stays for young people aged 15-25 through early intervention. In the three years it has been operating it has provided short term accommodation for 38 young people, supported more than 100 in the outreach program and has certainly made a huge difference to the lives of these young people. Personal testimonials from those who have been through this service are very touching. These young people were suffering depression and anxiety, had attempted suicide or experienced early psychosis, and their families and friends were at breaking point. How things have changed:
“Since arriving at the Time Out House I worry less about feeling depressed and anxious and I feel much more confident in myself and my choices. I have recently organised to enrol in a course at TAFE I feel very proud of the efforts I have made and the progress I am making.”
That is a wonderful testimony from one client. Another client has said:
“The ongoing support from the Time Out program has been a huge part of my recovery at a time in my life when, to be frank, I needed time out and some support and I had no other options.”
In terms of psychosocial benefits, young people’s personal wellbeing improves significantly during their stay. The rate of those enrolled in a course of study improves from 19 per cent on entry to 71 per cent on exiting the program. The cost of a 50-day residential stay is far lower than putting a young person in an adult psychiatric ward where the average stay is 312 days.
Unfortunately, these kinds of resounding results are not enough to protect this program from state government funding cuts, themselves a direct result of the federal government slashing funding to Queensland Health. Because economic forecasts were so badly mismanaged by the federal Treasurer, the Commonwealth will deduct $103 million from Queensland Health by June.
In my area that means $6.5 million slashed out of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Services and $900,000 from each of Cape York and Torres Strait regions. As a result, Time Out was told in January that its funding would be discontinued. At this point I became aware and involved in the situation as a direct result of the tireless campaigning of the Queensland state manager of Aftercare, Ivan Frkovic.
Mr Frkovic and I both recognised the overwhelming need for this service given that there is no other centre of this kind in North Queensland. It took some very urgent conversations over this last weekend, but tonight I must congratulate Minister for Health Springborg for his foresight and his compassion in agreeing to fund this residential service for a further six months.
I pledge here this evening that, if the coalition is successful on 14 September, I will certainly work my heart out to ensure that we as a government continue to show very strong support for mental health services, especially those targeting young people, as we have in the past.
To close, it is very clear that a multipronged approach is best when it comes to prevention, management and treatment of mental illness. To that length I must commend the work of Cairns mum Ruth Crouch, who, after experiencing the dreadful pain of her son Declan’s suicide last year has become a real driver for change in my region.
The Declan Crouch Fund and the Dr Edward Koch Foundation are running a campaign to lobby politicians for an adolescent mental health ward in the Cairns Base Hospital. The petition is online and already has some 5,720 signatures, with more on paper. I am sure they will achieve their goal of 10,000 signatures. This is a service that is desperately needed and long overdue. It is so inappropriate to have young people in adult psychiatric wards. I urge anyone with an interest in this issue to visit my website for that link.
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