Mental Health

02 May 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about mental health escapees.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The opposition has been informed that Mr Ben Harvey (who would be no stranger to question time) was readmitted to Glenside in April. He is a person who has a history of paranoid schizophrenia and violence, who does not have a permanent living arrangement and who has come into contact with the mental health and corrections systems on a regular basis, including being detained at the Adelaide Remand Centre, the City Watch- House and Yatala. He has also been detained at Glenside in the past, from where he absconded several times and where, indeed, on one occasion he managed to become intoxicated while in the secure ward. The opposition has received information that, following his admittance to Glenside, he has been transferred to Woodleigh House at Modbury Hospital from where he escaped on the weekend, which makes it his fourth escape in three years. My questions are:

1. Will the minister confirm that Mr Ben Harvey has absconded? If so, has the public been alerted by the government?

2. Does Mr Harvey present a danger to the public?

3. Are police resources being deployed to apprehend Mr Harvey?

4. Has the government investigated finding a stable supported accommodation arrangement for Mr Harvey and, if not, why not?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): I thank the honourable member for her important question. I do not have the specific details of this case. It is always a challenge to balance individual needs with community needs. Our mental health system needs to get people well through appropriate treatment and rehabilitation.

When clinicians assess that a person is stable enough they are generally placed in open wards and most of these patients comply with their detention orders. I am advised that the number of clients absconding from Glenside has decreased over the past number of years, so the strategies we have put in place to assist with that are working, although unfortunately there are always exceptions.

I am further advised that the clinical assessments about whether a person could become a danger to themselves or the community are made by those people caring for the person at the time. If the person is considered to be a danger, the police are notified and appropriate action is taken. I am quite happy to receive any of the detail the honourable member has about this specific case and to look into those matters.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: By way of supplementary question, will the minister confirm whether Mr Ben Harvey is at large and whether he is presenting any threat to the public that the public should be warned about?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: As I have stated, I have no specific details in relation to this client.