Barnett cuts mental health legal aid

THE WA Mental Health Commission—an arm of the Barnett government—will completely axe its $250,000 contribution to the Mental Health Law Centre in December.

Principal solicitor Sandra Boulter says she’s already had to “refuse over 100 calls for assistance because of a lack of resources”.

Now, losing 20 per cent of her centre’s funding means she’ll have to sack staff and possibly find new premises to keep the service going.

The centre is the only WA mental health NGO to provide legal representation for involuntary patients and mentally impaired accused people.

It first opened its doors when the new mental health act was established in 1996.

“The 2012 Stokes report found the WA mental health services’ governance was poor, and the standard of care fragmented and variable,” Ms Boulter says.

“The centre has exceeded all its current funding targets, made many law reform submissions on behalf of our clients and run test cases in the courts, state administrative tribunal and Mental Health Review Board in an endeavour to remedy the governance flaws identified by [the Stokes Report].”

Ms Boulter says the centre is a national finalist in annual mental health awards to be announced in Melbourne in August.

In 2010 it won a WA award—co-sponsored by the mental health commission—recognising excellence.

“With the impending funding cuts, we will be further embarrassed about our inability to accept the casework. [The centre] receives no federal funding,” Ms Boulter says.

 

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