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New mental health services for people with intellectual disability

We welcome the funding of two new specialist mental health services for people with intellectual disability. Our Senior Advocate Jim Simpson looks into what the new services will mean.

Georgia patting a horse

Georgia Groom and her mother Kim with their horses. From Sydney Morning Herald article linked below (Photo by Louise Kennerley)

This week the NSW Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies announced funding for two new mental health services for people with intellectual disability.

One of the new services will be specifically for children, and will operate out of the Children's Hospital at Westmead. The other service, which will be for adults, will operate out of Concord Hospital.

These new services will address many of the shortcomings in the current health system.

Although people with intellectual disability have higher rates of mental health problems than the general population, they find it very hard to get the mental health care they need. This is partly because it can be very challenging to diagnose mental illnesses of people with intellectual disability, especially when they have limited speech.

We have been arguing for some time that GPs, psychiatrists and other health professionals need increased skills in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses in people with intellectual disability.

However, it is often better for these health professionals to be able to access highly specialised advice, especially if a person has very complex needs.

That is where these new services will fit in. The new services will be able to look at complex situations and provide expert advice to mainstream health professionals. These highly specialised services will be able to make sure that diagnosis and treatment provide the best possible outcomes.

The new services will be based in Sydney but will have outreach responsibilities right across NSW. The services add two important building blocks to the NSW government's actions on the health of people with intellectual disability. They will build well on the new intellectual disability health teams announced in the last budget.

We are now campaigning for the federal political parties to commit to doing their part by improving training in intellectual disability for all doctors and nurses, and providing better support for GPs for the treatment of people with intellectual disability. To find out more, head to the Our Health Counts campaign page

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Published 1 March 2019


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