Justice and mental health
People with a mental health problem are over-represented in the criminal justice system at all levels in Western Australia. About 40 per cent of adults and juveniles who pass through courts and prisons have a mental health problem and very few receive the care they need.
There is growing evidence that giving timely and appropriate treatment to defendants and offenders who are experiencing mental illness will reduce the rates of reoffending and incarceration. The Commission is working to address this need by enhancing the range of quality mental health services available for these people.
Consultation for WA Mental Health Towards 2020 identifies the need for better collaboration between government departments to get improved outcomes for these people.
The Mental Health Commission has begun working with the Department of the Attorney-General, Police and the Department of Corrective Services (DCS). One of the first priorities is to develop an appropriate court diversion and support strategy to improve mental health care and reduce the number of adults and juveniles entering the corrections system. Programs are required for both adult and children’s courts.
As an interim measure, the Commission recently allocated more than $336,000 to begin reform including:
- training for court staff to identify and deal with clients with mental health issues
- training for mental health and Prison Counselling Service staff to improve risk assessment of prisoners with mental health or personality disorders
- a needs assessment of prisoners with mental health and substance misuse issues
- mental health first aid training in every WA prison
- providing a mental health e-learning tool for the Judicial Bench Book.