The state government’s promise that work would start before the end of last year at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital to begin building a mental health facility for teenagers by 2017 has been broken.
Parents are now required to take teenagers with acute mental health problems to hospitals or to local Headspace facilities, which are “early advice” services and not live-in facilities for teenagers with serious mental health problems.
“They are still being turned away,” long-serving youth mental health campaigner Justine Wilkinson told Fairfax Media on Monday.
“I told (the mother of a young person with a mental illness) you have to stand and literally stamp your feet in the hospital until they take notice of you.”
However, Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said a contract to begin building a new carpark to allow cars to be shifted from the existing Prince Charles car park was made in November 2017.
“While it might not seem like much, these important works must be completed before major construction can begin on the new facility,” he said.
“People can expect to see construction activity on-site at the Prince Charles Hospital in the next couple of weeks.”
Queensland Health later clarified the existing car park was being expanded on the north-west corner of the hospital.
Fairfax Media understands a separate construction tender for the centre itself is still to be awarded and that work might start in about three months.
The new adolescent mental health facility for 15 young adults costing between $12 million and $15 million is still planned to be ready in 2020.
However, that would be more than six years after Wacol’s Barrett Adolescent Centre was closed by Newman government health minister Lawrence Springborg in January 2014.
In 2016, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised work would start in 2017.
Ms Wilkinson said other problems were re-emerging.
“What does worry me is that we still haven’t done something with the structural work in the system since the Barrett Centre closed and until the new centre is built,” she said.
“There isn’t really a place for those kids to go now and that’s a real issue.”
The LNP closed the Barrett Centre before building any replacement mental health facility for teenagers, a decision condemned by a Commission of Inquiry in July 2016.
Three teenagers who were inpatients at the Barrett centre – Will Fowell, Talieha Nebauer and Ms Wilkinson’s daughter, Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker – took their own lives in the months after the centre closed in 2014.
“I feel really disappointed that there is nothing in place at the moment for those kids who need it, but I understand why they are taking this time to get it right before it’s built because it is such a big job and they are working with all the advocates,” she said.
Ms Wilkinson is still bitter no coroner’s inquest has been held into the three deaths. That issue was not addressed by Dr Miles.
While she was in opposition, Ms Palaszczuk campaigned heavily against the LNP over the issue and announced on October 13, 2016, after winning office that Labor would build a new adolescent mental health facility at Prince Charles Hospital.
“We are building a new centre and construction of it should start by the end of next year,” Ms Palaszczuk said at the time.
“We are also developing a new model of care that will support at-risk Queensland adolescents in the most appropriate way.”
Former health minister Cameron Dick also said early works to prepare the site and car parking for the facility would start in December 2017.
The government allocated $68 million over four years for youth mental health.
However when Fairfax Media inspected the car park at Prince Charles Hospital this week, it discovered no signs indicating works on a youth mental health facility were under way.
Dr Miles on Tuesday said they had already established an Adolescent Day Program in north Brisbane and two new youth residential and rehabilitation units in Townsville.
He said, as part of the $68 million over four years, Queensland Health would set up two additional Step-Up, Step-Down facilities in north and south Brisbane and upgrade two, day-programs for adolescents in Logan and on the Gold Coast.
Ms Wilkinson said parents met with Queensland Health on Tuesday to continue design consultation for the new centre.
However she said there were still problems. A tender for the construction had not been awarded, Education Queensland was not providing any advice on schooling to the 20 young people and no “model of care” for the centre had been finalised.
Fairfax Media understands work is progressing on the overall mental health centre to meet the findings of the Commission of Inquiry from Justice Margaret Wilson.