Karratha mental health facility no community risk: Minister

Alicia Perera and Pablo MillerPilbara News
Health Minister Roger Cook and Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel.
Camera IconHealth Minister Roger Cook and Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

The Mental Health Minister has defended the new suburban location of the proposed Karratha step-up step-down mental health facility, saying establishing the service in a residential area is an important step for de-stigmatising the issue in WA communities.

Speaking to Spirit Radio Karratha last month, Roger Cook said the step-up step-down facilities planned to be rolled out in metropolitan and regional centres were a new model under a mental health care “evolution”, which would provide people with sub-acute mental health issues such as depression and anxiety not requiring hospital care the ability to recuperate within the community.

He said the prospective patients of the planned $9.7 million, six-bed Karratha facility would be mainly “sad” rather than acutely mentally ill, violent, drug addicts or “in any way a security risk to the broader community”, and at the two step-up step-down clinics already built in WA there had so far not been any incidents involving a risk to the local community.

“These are people who are having an unhappy stage of their life, whether that’s because of an underlying mental health condition or it may be an experience that they’ve had (with) which they’re having trouble recovering,” he said.

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“What they do ... in that environment is work intensely with clinicians, psychologists and so on, and maybe there’s a period of time when they just need to stabilise through medication.”

“But these aren’t, in a classic sense, dangerous people ... they’re simply people who are by and large sad and ... need some assistance to basically get their life back on track.”

It comes as a group of Bulgarra residents are objecting to the facility’s new proposed site in Gregory Way in their suburb because of safety concerns over the site’s proximity to homes, two primary schools and several licensed venues.

They have also said the intention to locate the clinic in a residential area has become a “community issue”, given the facility’s first planned location, on Gawthorne Drive in Millars Well, was scrapped last year after it was opposed by residents for similar reasons.

The group has submitted a petition with more thanover 600 signatures to agencies including the Mental Health Commission and plan to hold a community forum on the issue in coming weeks.

Mr Cook said the Mental Health Commission had been “highly engaged” with the Karratha community over the planned facility, including working to identify a new site in response to community feedback.

“Community consultation goes hand-in-hand with this process, and we’ve had Mental Health Commission staff working closely with the community to make sure we move forward in a way (where) people understand what we’re trying to do, and are also comfortable with the outcome,” he said.

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