The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is deeply concerned about reports of a psychiatric patient being kept in prison because of a lack of appropriate high security mental health facilities.
The RANZCP Victorian Branch Chair, Associate Professor Richard Newton, said ‘most people who have a mental illness will never commit a crime or present with violent tendencies. However, those that do commit crimes while mentally ill deserve the right to be treated by an appropriate service’.
‘A history of chronic underfunding of mental health in Victoria has led to a situation where we do not have the appropriate facilities to treat people who have a mental illness and have come into contact with the justice system.
Prisoners are two to three times as likely as those in the general community to have a mental illness and are 10 to 15 times more likely to have a psychotic disorder.
The RANZCP Victorian Branch believes more beds are needed at forensic psychiatric hospitals to treat people who have committed serious crimes while mentally ill.
‘Dozens of people are waiting over six months to get the treatment they need and deserve’, said Associate Professor Newton, ‘but the system is failing them’.
‘By under-funding forensic services, we are failing the people who need treatment and the safety of the public. They are entitled to mental health treatment and research shows that treatment reduces rates of recidivism.
‘Effective treatment can only occur in a hospital setting where there is access to appropriate and continuing care.’
In addition, there is a need to provide appropriate services to forensic patients with intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairment, who have been found unfit to stand trial, yet still end up in prison.
The RANZCP Victorian Branch will continue to call upon both sides of Government in the lead-up to the State Election to provide long-term successive commitments to repair our in-demand mental health system.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.