Legislative Council: Thursday, September 08, 2022


Acute Behavioural Assessment Units

The Hon. S.L. GAME (15:01): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Attorney-General representing the Minister for Health and Wellbeing regarding acute behavioural assessment units.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: I have met with South Australia's Chief Psychiatrist, who fully endorses the rollout of acute behavioural assessment units attached to hospital emergency departments. I understand he has already relayed this advice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. The old way of thinking was to treat a substance abuse issue separate from other mental health issues. This is incorrect. The latest research states that these issues should be treated simultaneously.

Assessment units provide care for people under the influence of substances and alcohol when they may otherwise be turned away from an emergency department for being intoxicated. We have come a long way in reducing stigma around certain aspects of mental health, but those who suffer simultaneously from mental health crises and substance abuse still face discrimination, judgement and are often met with low levels of empathy and understanding.

Feedback I have had from local advocacy groups says that patients who are alcoholic or addicted to substances feel discriminated against by emergency room practices here in South Australia. Melbourne has introduced purpose-built acute behavioural assessment units attached to hospital emergency departments. They have been proven to reduce stigma and fear for those needing to present at hospital while harbouring a substance problem, improve resourcing throughout the emergency department both within the unit and the extended ED facility, and decrease the use of restrictive interventions such as restraints.

These facilities improve safety and reduce stigma, yet currently South Australia has no such facility attached to our hospitals. Local professionals have noted that The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is well placed to facilitate these assessment units. My questions to the Attorney-General representing the minister are:

1. Is the government committed to introducing this important service to South Australian hospitals, as recommended by research papers, our Chief Psychiatrist and several other mental health professionals, and when?

2. What is the government plan to reduce stigma for people suffering substance abuse simultaneously with mental health issues, especially those who present to our emergency departments?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:04): I thank the honourable member for her questions and will refer those important questions to the minister in another place and bring back a reply.