Tuesday’s budget contains $9.5 million for an inquiry into three suicides of troubled teenagers from the former Barrett Centre, controversially closed by the previous LNP state government in January 2014.
The Barrett Adolescent Psychiatric Centre at Wacol ran as a stand-alone section of the larger adult mental health facility, The Park.
Before it was closed by former Health Minister Lawrence Springborg in January 2014, the centre provided programs specifically for teenagers with severe mental health issues.
It was Queensland’s only live-in centre for teenagers with mental health problems and many parents decried the government’s decision to close the centre before building alternative care.
Families of the three suicide victims – in a story broken by Fairfax Media in July 2014 – called on both political parties for a commission of inquiry into the deaths.
Earlier, in November 2012, parents also condemned government plans to close a nearby school which provided classes to patients at the Barrett Centre, telling Fairfax Media the decision to close the school was “dangerous”.
Of the $9.5 million, $3 million is for the 2015 inquiry, while a further $4.5 million for legal expenses and possible compensation for the victims’ families, a ministerial spokesman confirmed.
The commission of inquiry will begin before Christmas and run for “between three and six months”.
Any money left over would go to building a replacement Barrett Centre facility, if the Commission of Inquiry rules that is the best option for young people, the spokesman said.
Many parents opposed the centre’s closure arguing it provided the state’s only live-in mental health care for teenagers.
However the LNP believed the centre was not providing the best care for teenagers with mental health problems and closed the centre, promising alternative care.
Labor Government will build a replacement live-in mental health facility for young people with severe mental illness.
However the location and scale of the “Tier 3, sub-acute facility” will be based on the recommendations of the commission of inquiry, a spokesman for Health Minister Cameron Dick said.
A retired judge with full powers to summon witnesses will run the inquiry.
Queensland Health is currently negotiating the availability of a person experienced in mental health issues to run the inquiry.
“The person we are trying to get is someone with a judicial background, but someone very familiar with mental health issues,” a spokesman said.
A separate coroners’ inquiry into the three deaths was announced in December 2014.
In a statement to the ABC, Health Minister Cameron Dick said parents deserved to know the circumstances of their children’s deaths.
He said the inquiry would focus on the “full facts surrounding the decisions” that led to the shut-down and the “subsequent tragic deaths”.
“The government is committed to seeking out the truth because the families, staff, community and families of others impacted by the centre’s closure, at the very least deserve to know what happened,” he said.
This article first appeared on ‘Brisbane Times’ on 13 July 2015.