Health breakthrough

By DARREN COYNE

A PLEA from Tweed magistrate Jeff Linden for improved mental health services within the Tweed court district has reached the ears of the top psychiatrist in New South Wales.

The Daily News yesterday reported Mr Linden's frustrations at having to often make decisions regarding a person's mental health without adequate assessments being made.

In response, Dr John Basson, the statewide director for forensic mental health at Justice Health, yesterday contacted The Daily News and promised that the Tweed situation would be closely examined.

In particular, Mr Linden had said that the provision of a mental health nurse at his court would enable him to have immediate information regarding an accused person's mental health.

Such nurses have been stationed at 20 courts in New South Wales, including Lismore, as a result of a program developed by the director of mental health at Justice Health, Professor David Greenberg.

Professor Greenberg set up a similar system while he was working in Perth.

Dr John Basson last night urged Mr Linden to speak with the Chief Magistrate of NSW, Graeme Henson, who liaised regularly with Prof Greenberg and himself.

"We have always taken advice on these matters and we are most interested to provide comprehensive care in courts," Dr Basson said. "We hope to negotiate further funds for this program ... this is one of our priorities, and one way or another we are happy to help.

"It is up to us all to talk to one another to come up with solutions to these situ-ations."

Dr Basson said either a mental health nurse could be appointed to deal with the Tweed circuit, or a system utilising tele-medicine could be introduced, similar to programs operating at Griffith and Broken Hill.

Mr Linden's remarks followed a decision earlier this week to send a 22-year-old man to jail for further mental health assessment because the Tweed Mental Health Clinic had refused to admit the man.

Meanwhile, a North Coast Area Health Service spokesman yesterday maintained that the 22-year-old man, said to have the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, had received a thorough psychiatric assessment at The Tweed Hospital's Mental Health Unit, and had received treatment and care while he was in custody.



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