Shane Egan Assisted Accommodation

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SpeakersMeagher Ms Reba; Face Mr Jack
BusinessPrivate Members Statements


Ms MEAGHER (Cabramatta) [4.58 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House a matter that demonstrates the important work and reforms in the Health Department in dealing with individual cases and finding solutions for people suffering from often complicated problems and circumstances. The publicity surrounding National Mental Health Week reminds me of a recent reform initiated by this Government which has resulted in a practical solution and benefit for a constituent of my electorate of Cabramatta. I refer to the joint guarantee of service between New South Wales Health and the Department of Housing which was formally endorsed by both directors-general in September 1977.

The guarantee provides clear guidelines for service co-ordination between the departments to provide appropriate supported accommodation options for people with an enduring mental illness. It acknowledges that many special tenants are also consumers of other government services. One of the 12 area health services that have signed off on local agreements based on the guarantee is the South Western Sydney Area Health Service. There are clear examples of the agreement benefiting people in our local area.

In June this year Mrs Sandra Egan approached my office in search of a solution to problems she was experiencing with her son Shane. Shane has a mild intellectual disability that has been severely compounded by behavioural problems including
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illicit drug and alcohol abuse. He was often violent and aggressive and posed a continuing threat to his own safety as well that of his mother. Shane had a history of medical and psychological treatment that had not alleviated his behaviour and the problems it posed to his family. His mother turned to me after becoming more frustrated with the lack of progress from various non-government services.

It appeared that because Shane was not strictly psychotic, although he had been prescribed medication that in the past was used to treat psychotic behaviour, he was not a community health case. As a client he was caught between the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health. The immediate problem - to find him accommodation away from his mother - was the responsibility of another department altogether. As his behaviour was worsening, his mother had a real fear that he was destined to end up in prison or a mental health institution before he would receive counselling and medication, which he refused to believe he needed. It was clear that Shane’s behaviour was becoming more destructive. His recent refusal to undergo psychological assessment and counselling meant that he was no longer receiving appropriate treatment or medication and his behaviour was bound to get worse.

Mrs Egan was appropriately advised to place Shane in Department of Housing accommodation. As I have already mentioned, one of the problems in finding Department of Housing accommodation for Shane was his behaviour. Mrs Egan explained to the Department of Housing that she believed he would be unable to cope living on his own. On 25 September I made further representations on behalf of Mrs Egan. She had reached a crisis point while Shane was still waiting for Department of Housing accommodation. Against her wishes, but convinced that it was the only course to take for her own safety, Mrs Egan was forced to take out an apprehended violence order against her son because of her fear of his behaviour and his threats against her.

Following one incident Mrs Egan called the police, who took her son away. He was then kept at the mental health unit of Liverpool Hospital. She requested me to make further inquiries to find housing options available to him. I made the appropriate representations to the Minister for Health, and included Mrs Egan’s suggestions that Shane be accommodated in a group home or other type of residential care facility where he could receive the necessary treatment and assistance. I was delighted with the reply that I received from the Minister’s office. Mr Ken Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of the South Western Sydney Area Health Service, which administers Liverpool Hospital, advised that accommodation had been found for Shane at Craigieburn Lodge, Lakemba.

I am advised that Craigieburn Lodge is a supervised hostel which provides residential accommodation, including meals and the dispensing of medication. I understand Shane was discharged on Friday, 2 October, from Liverpool Hospital mental health unit to Craigieburn Lodge. The casebook on Shane is far from closed. He will need continual support and assistance but his family now has renewed hope and faith in a system that does not let people fall between departments when it comes to finding desperately needed assistance. I thank the Minister and the Department of Health for their assistance to the Egan family.

Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.03 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Cabramatta for her contribution, which is indicative of the work she does on a personal basis with her constituents and for those in need. Over the years honourable members on both sides of the House have dealt with tragic cases. Members of Parliament are the last stopping point for many people to obtain assistance. There has been a lack of understanding in the community generally about mental health. It was an issue that was generally hidden away. Putting young people in homes tended to make them victims of the system. Frankly, some of them were treated as foundlings. They should never have been put in those homes.

In recent years research has been carried out into people who do not have mental problems but have medical problems that lead to behavioural problems. The community has only just come to terms with referral services and adequate housing for those people, as was highlighted by the honourable member for Cabramatta. Glowing reports have been received about Craigieburn Lodge. The problem that faced Mrs Egan is faced by many parents who know that their children cannot look after themselves. They must find them accommodation where they can be fed and supervised for medication. I congratulate the honourable member for Cabramatta on her tenacity in following this matter through and on having finally found a solution.