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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2143

Mr QUICK (7:40 PM) —It gives me no real pleasure to criticise my state Labor government colleagues, but criticise them I must. They continually inform me that they are unable to address issues confronting my constituents. `There isn't the money', they say. Yet $650,000 has been given as a golden handshake to Richard Butler. I would argue that this amount could have been better spent on mental health in Tasmania. Tonight I want to read a letter from Pam Jacobson, a wonderful friend of mine. In her rather traumatic letter, Pam says:

I would like to take this opportunity to let the people of Tasmania know that we have a crisis nationally with Mental Health.

I do not speak these words lightly and without experience. My son David Jacobson, 35 years old ended his life by jumping off the Tasman Bridge, thereby ending 10 plus years of torment for himself and his family.

David was paranoid schizafrenia being diagnosed many years previously. When he first became unwell his dad and I took him to the Royal Hobart Hospital in Hobart, we were quite shocked at the way our son was acting and knew nothing of this illness. It was to be an experience that our family could have done without.

David was never a willing patient over the years and police, mental health workers, and myself would have to handcuff him and force him to the hospital. Mental health workers (CAT team) would assess him before this happened. Usually they were called in because he had been causing problems with neighbours. Unfortunately once he entered the out-patients emergency everything that the CAT team had assessed for was not taken into account.

David could control himself for 5-10 minutes and often that was all the time the staff could give his at the hospital, so consequently they would often feel that he was able to go home. It would be pressure from his dad and I that they spend a little more time and finally he would be admitted.

The last 3 years David proved that he was quite violent when he was unwell. In early March of this year after struggling with David to have medication he attacked a man who he knew quite well (he owned the take-away store next to his home) and broke his wrist. The police arrested him and I received a call from him for help. I immediately rang the CAT team who took control and went to the Police department to assess David. They rang and told me that he was definitely certifiable and they were taking him to the hospital. I was to go to the hospital in case there were problems about admitting him, as in the past. I arrived within 15 minutes after the call and as I was entering the hospital David was coming out.

I was quite disturbed and asked to see the phychiatrist who attended David. He spoke to me and knew that I was concerned as I believed that David was dangerous. After discussing this with him he admitted to me `I'm not making excuses, but there are no beds available.' I was very concerned at this and also that David could be allowed to be sent home without any follow-up. I then had to take David to his unit and stay with him which was putting me in danger. David had already attacked someone that day and with this illness we were never sure when he would react badly.

I contacted the Minister's office the next day and was unable to talk to the minister or get an appointment. I spoke to a woman who told me that she would follow up my complaint with the hospital. Unfortunately she rang the Mental Health area and told them I had complained about them which was untrue. A few days later David's case worker (who had also contacted the Hospital and made a complaint about him not being admitted) was reassured that there was now a bed available next time David was presented. The problem was that he would not go willingly and the opportunity was lost.


Over the years I sometimes found the going so hard that I could not focus on anything but looking after and caring for David. The illness is such that it is all encompassing. There were many times that David did not see a doctor for long periods because there was a shortage.

This heart-wrenching letter—which I do not have the time to read completely, highlights the fact that the mental health problems in my state of Tasmania are enormous. The money needs to be spent. Intervention and support for not only the patients but also their caseworkers, the psychiatric staff in hospitals and, more importantly, for the families, has to be found. The Labor government in Tasmania has the temerity to say, `We don't have the money,' and yet they can find $650,000 to pay out the former Governor of Tasmania. I find it abominable, an obscenity and very hard to explain to my constituency in the federal seat of Franklin.