Michelle Lensink

Just Who Is Running Mental Health?

Mental health services show little hope of improvement under Labor, and there is now confusion over who is running the show, according to Shadow Mental Health Minister Michelle Lensink.

Ms Lensink said that since the March election Labor had stonewalled on new mental health funding, effectively sidelined new Mental Health Minister Gail Gago and failed to provide any comprehensive vision for the future of the Glenside campus.

A year ago while opposing the formation of a Parliamentary committee into mental health services in South Australia the then Minister Carmel Zollo confidently stated:

‘We do not need another report into mental health services in this state. What we need is to keep moving forward with our mental health reform agenda.’ Hansard April 6 2005

Unfortunately for Ms Zollo her leader, Premier Rann, disagreed and last month announced in The Advertiser that: ‘South Australia's most powerful social policy adviser has been given the task of overhauling its ailing mental health system.

‘Premier Mike Rann has directed Social Inclusion Board chairman Monsignor David Cappo to make mental health the board's top priority for the rest of this year.’ March 27, 2006.

“Not only did Premier Rann lose confidence in Ms Zollo and replace her with Ms Gago, he barely let the new Minister settle into her new chair before announcing that the real supremo of mental health in SA would be Monsignor Cappo,” Ms Lensink said.

“With Labor’s reduced Parliamentary sittings there is little opportunity for public scrutiny of the government’s actions or lack of them on mental health. So much for Ministerial responsibility!”

Ms Lensink said the refusal of former Mental Health Minister Zollo and future Minister Gago to attend ongoing meetings of the mental health select committee was short-sighted.

“Both absented themselves and the conclusion is clear: Labor is only willing to listen and act when it forms part of a stage-managed media event, not when it involves being part of a genuine community debate on the issue.”

Ms Lensink said Labor’s plans for Glenside also remained in limbo. “In a panic over mental health Premier Rann said Labor would retain Glenside but there is little sign from the government or Minister Gago that they have since developed any real plan for the site. They must be waiting for the Social Inclusion Board to tell them.

“Symptomatic of Labor’s continuing malaise is the Health Department’s website which has not yet caught up with the news that Ms Gago is the new Mental Health Minister. But given the policy backflip and sidelining of the Minister perhaps it is not so unexpected.”

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