Mental health care in prisons ‘ineffective’ due to shortage of psychologists, says auditor general | Canberra time

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ACT prison inmates with the most mental health issues are not receiving adequate treatment due to a severe shortage of psychologists at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, a damning report from the Auditor General has concluded. The provision of mental health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners is inefficient and there are opportunities for greater input from Aboriginal service providers at all stages of the prison mental health care system, revealed auditing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners in the ACT are also not effectively screened for mental health issues when admitted to the territory’s prison, due to the lack of involvement of a health worker. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The audit of mental health services at the Alexander Maconochie Center found that mental health services were effective for non-Indigenous inmates under psychiatric or suicide and self-harm ratings. However, care was insufficient for prisoners with less severe mental disorders. But support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates at risk of psychiatry, suicide or self-harm would be enhanced with input from an Aboriginal service provider. Auditor General Michael Harris released the report on the provision of mental health services in prisons on Wednesday, which says standards have been set under the Corrections Management Act. “Due to ambiguity of purpose, coupled with poor data collection practices and a lack of performance information collected by the agency, the Audit Office was unable to ‘determine whether that standard had been met,’ Mr Harris said in a statement. The audit revealed that there had been no strategic planning for the provision of mental health services at the prison and that planning was limited by poor data collection. “Planning for the release of inmates with mental health issues could also be improved by developing guidance documents outlining the process of such planning and the information needed to inform such planning,” the report states. The Auditor General made 19 recommendations, including that Canberra Health Services should develop a clinical services plan for the provision of mental health services in the prison, in conjunction with ACT Health. Canberra Health Services should also improve its record keeping and reporting lines, as the current arrangements ‘do not provide clear management links between Canberra Health Services and ACT Remedial Services’. Training for guards to better support inmates with mental health issues should be provided, according to the audit. Canberra Health Services should also prepare more information to cover release planning for inmates with mental health care plans. MORE ACT POLITICS NEWS: The 117-page report noted that there was a significant shortage of mental health staff in detention and that its psychologists were in junior positions. “Although funded for a total of 16 [full-time equivalent] staff, ranging from registered nurses to forensic psychologists, the team is just 11.2 [full-time equivalent staff]“, says the report. “The most significant staffing shortage occurs in the number of psychologists; only two of the four budgeted positions have been filled as of April 2021. The two psychology positions that have been filled are the most junior roles. The report also called for greater oversight of the services provided by Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, and a requirement for the service to be consulted in developing release plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. “While this happens informally, there is no established process to ensure advice and support is sought from Winnunga, or any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health care professional, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates at risk of suicide and self-harm,” the report states. Our reporters work hard to bring local, up-to-date information to the community. That’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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