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Accommodation for the Mentally Ill

Barrier Breakers is urging continuing community support in its quest to establish a pilot project which will provide supported accommodation for people with mental illnesses.

The organisation’s chief executive officer, Derek Amos, told guests at the Barrier Breakers third annual charity dinner in Traralgon on Saturday night (September 7) that construction would begin soon on the six unit pilot project in Traralgon, and the organisation wanted to roll out the model in every major town in Gippsland.

Mr Amos said one of the greatest unmet needs in Gippsland was the provision of safe, affordable and supported accommodation for people with long-term mental illness.

“Since the deinstitutionalisation of mental health services and the treatment of people with a mental illness in the communities in which they live, successive governments of all political persuasions at both the state and federal levels have continually failed to provide anywhere near adequate support services to those communities to enable them to cope with the burden of mental illness,” Mr Amos told the gathering.

“Homelessness in this region has a major detrimental impact on people with chronic mental illness.”

 “Governments have saved billions of dollars by closing institutions such as the former Hobson Park Psychiatric Hospital in Traralgon, but have returned precious little to our region to care for the accommodation needs of our ill and vulnerable.”

“From a 220-bed facility, which included a 50-bed alcohol and drug detoxification and rehabilitation centre, the region of Gippsland has now less than 100 beds available in a variety of settings including units that only provide short stay accommodation of no more than two years duration.”

Mr Amos said caravan parks, boarding houses, nursing homes and couch-surfing were too often the only alternative or even worse, incarceration in prison.

“What a shocking indictment on our society to allow our sons, daughters’ family members and any other member of our communities to be condemned to such a fate,” he said.

“There is no long-term supported accommodation security provided for some of the most vulnerable people in our society – people with life-long mental illness.”

Mr Amos said throughout their lives, people with chronic mental illness would experience periods of wellness, but also periods of illness, which often would require acute psychiatric care.

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