Services not there when needed

A FAMILY has discovered a lack of services in the Clarence Valley when it was needed most.

Events came to a head before Easter when Yamba resident Yannick Martin tried to call the Mental Health Service's 24-hour help number.

Mrs Martin was trying to help a woman who was in a state of mental disarray.

It was arranged for the women to go to the Grafton Base Hospital where she was to be assessed by the mental health acute response team.

The women and her father phoned ahead and then drove to Grafton from Yamba.

Mrs Martin said they then waited three-and-a-half hours for the emergency team.

The father was said to have a real challenge keeping his daughter at the hospital during the wait.

By this time the woman was agitated, refused a blood test and was sent home, Mrs Martin said.

"Because she wasn't threatening herself or anyone else, they told us to get a referral from a GP, and then to organise a psychologist," Mrs Martin said.

"For the rest of the weekend she remained in limbo, and anything was possible. The woman was far from stable."

Mrs Martin said she was told the acute response team was held up working on another job in Maclean.

"Why didn't they call to say they were late? Why didn't they see us here or let us meet them in Maclean?"

The experience brought back the memories of securing mental health care for her father who suffered from schizophrenia.

"The networks and support infrastructure required by mental illness sufferers simply aren't there. And more so in regional areas.

"In Sydney mental health professionals come to visit you."

Mrs Martin feels young people are left to fall through the gaps.

She is adamant people need to make themselves heard saying they must speak up in any way possible. Whether by calling people, by writing letters and by talking to one another.

"We can't sweep mental health under the carpet any more," she said.

"Anyone who has experience dealing with mental health patients knows that they are just as likely to have episodes in the middle of the night," Mrs Martin said.

"Having weekday 9-5 services is all well and good, but it doesn't stretch to what is actually needed."

Mental Heatlh Service directober for Northern NSW Local Health District, Richard Buss, apologised to the patient and her family for the distress she experienced.

He said the Mental Health Service is investigating the concerns that have been raised and was unable to provide further details for privacy reasons.



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