Michelle Lensink

The Price Of Being Mentally Ill

A mentally ill man detained by police under the Mental Health Act has been forced to pay for an ambulance to the Flinders Medical Centre because of new arrangements for transporting mental health patients to hospitals, Shadow Mental Health Minister Michelle Lensink said today.

Ms Lensink said the young southern suburbs man was in police custody after a friend had alerted police of the man’s intention to attempt suicide.

She said the man was stunned to receive a bill from ambulance services without being advised beforehand.

“This poor man has come home from hospital to find a bill for an ambulance ride that he cannot afford,” Ms Lensink said.

“When he was transported to Flinders Medical Centre by request of the police he was not suffering from any physical illness or injury.

“At no time during his dealings with the police or during the ambulance ride was this man advised of the costs he would incur, which he states if he had known he would have asked to seek alternative transport by way of taxi or a friend.

“While he understands that the police were obliged to detain him when they were alerted to his condition, the man finds it unbelievable that they could not take him to the hospital, especially since they would have to pass it on the way back to the station.

“By his own admission the man was not in a sound state of mind but he was willing to cooperate with the police to help find him suitable care.

He was not restrained at any time and did not feel that the police saw him as a threat, therefore he cannot understand why they could not drive him themselves.

“Minister Gago only stated in Parliament on Tuesday September 19, 2006:

‘It is worthwhile repeating the reform arrangements for the transportation of mentally ill people involved in an incident or disturbance will also be covered by this proposed legislation…these proposed reforms will do much to free up valuable police resources.’

“While it is important that the police are not overworked, the Rann Government must make sure that people who are so unwell that they are unable to properly understand the situation are not charged for a service that was previously free.

“Mentally ill people already pay a high enough price for the short comings of the Rann Government’s mental health policy.

To expect them to pay for their transport costs, without even warning them shows how little respect this government has for their plight and that it has no intention of providing further relief on already strained resources.”

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