I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about the practices at the rural and remote unit at Glenside.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I refer to the case of a mother who has contacted me concerning her son, who has been within the rural and remote unit at Glenside. I wrote to the minister on 8 October and received an acknowledgement dated 11 October. The situation is that the son absconded from the rural and remote unit for the second time during the week of 23 September this year and, as far as I am aware, has not yet been located. I understand that the mother has also written to the minister directly about her concerns.
Apart from this mother's obvious very great concern for the safety of her son, she is also concerned about the response she has had from Glenside in dealing with this situation. She has advised my office that she was informed by Glenside that those patients who abscond and then return to Glenside are not necessarily returned to a secure bed. She was informed that there are no secure beds in the rural and remote unit and her son will not receive secure care.
Given that this person has a history of absconding and his mother believes he would benefit from being in a secure unit, can the minister advise whether this is actually the policy of the rural and remote unit, and what is her view of it?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Environment and Conservation, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Minister Assisting the Minister for Health) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her question. Indeed, I do recall the correspondence that the honourable member sent me, and I believe I have responded to that. I do not know whether or not she has received my response yet, but I have responded. I have also had the matter followed up with the department, which I understand has also been in contact with the mother of this particular client.
People with mental health illness are put into secure wards only if it is deemed clinically necessary for that to occur, and that is usually assessed to be necessary only if the person is at risk to themselves or to others. Obviously, I will not discuss any individual details of particular patients here in this chamber, as I have indicated on many occasions before, but that is the principle of the way that patients are clinically cared for. So, only those people who need to be placed in secure wards are placed in secure wards.
Many of the patients receiving care are voluntary patients. Many of them are not forced to have treatment and care, and on occasions we find that some of those voluntary patients choose not to continue with their care. Unless their removing themselves from treatment constitutes a risk to either themselves or others, then that is their choice to do so, although it might not be a particularly good choice, and clearly our mental health services strive very hard to follow up on those clients and ensure that they do participate in ongoing care and treatment.
The particular person to whom the Hon. Michelle Lensink refers has been located. I also remind members that, in the case of adults with any medical history or condition, particularly if the person concerned is competent, that person can choose who their personal and medical information is shared with. Sometimes patients choose not to share, or allow that detailed information to be shared, with family members. If they are an adult and if they are competent then, again, it is their right to choose to do that. I understand and acknowledge that that can be very frustrating for some family members but, after all, just because a person is mentally ill does not mean that we strip them of all their rights.