The way in which patients with serious mental illnesses are managed in the community is being questioned in the wake of two murder sentences in the last seven days.
Paul Gottermeyer received a life sentence with a ten year non-parole period and Geoffrey Tampin escaped conviction by reason of insanity in decisions handed down last week.
Both men were receiving community care as mental health outpatients at the time of the murders.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust has called into question the adequacy of care both men received in the period leading up to the murders and cites lack of resources as a major contributing factor in these homicides and others like them.
“These are not isolated incidents”, says Graeme Moyle, Trust spokesman on mental health issues. “A pattern is emerging of inadequate community care of the seriously mentally ill and we are only going to see more deaths as a result unless those entrusted with this care take ownership of the situation”.
“Police are being called to incidents involving mentally unwell patients on average, 30 times a day, St John responds to about 10 such incidents a day”
“Clearly some patients cannot cope and need long term secure care”, Mr Moyle says. “This is not a call to a return to the days of large wholesale incarceration of anyone suspected of being mentally ill, but an acknowledgement that some people are just unable to manage, unsupervised in the community”.
“The pendulum has swung too far and those with the most need cannot access the treatment they require until a tragedy occurs”.
“The shame in all this is that those responsible for this care remain silent when a homicide of this nature occurs”.
“District Health Boards need to be investigated, independently, after any such incident, just as the Police are”, Moyle says, “By investigating and then accepting some responsibility in these cases perhaps lessons can be drawn upon to prevent repeat failures and unnecessary deaths”.
Police were called out to incidents involving the mentally ill in 2010 / 2011, 10734 times.
St John were called out to incidents involving the mentally unwell 3716 times in 2012.
Sensible Sentencing Trust Mental Health Issues Spokesman
Phone 07 8275121
Mobile 0274 941414