Three seriously ill teenagers died despite the Queensland Government receiving repeated warnings about the dangers of closing a specialised mental health facility for young people in Brisbane, government documents reveal.
The Barrett Adolescent Psychiatric Centre at Wacol provided 24/7 care for teenagers at serious risk of suicide, but it was closed down by the State Government in January, with families of patients told equivalent community mental health services would be provided closer to the patients’ homes.
Three former patients – Will Fowell, Caitlin Wilkinson and Talieha Nebauer – died since its closure in January, with the coroner investigating.
As health department, West Moreton Hospital and Health Service documents obtained by the ABC under Right to Information laws show, experts warned the Government that a tier-3 care facility like the Barrett centre was essential.
“Tier 3 is an essential component… there is a small group of young people whose needs cannot be safely and effectively met through alternate service types,” the Queensland Government documents reveal.
The documents also show that health practitioners wrote to the Health Minister urging him to keep the centre open with one staff member warning of “the risk of death or severe injury to the adolescents by their own hand if they are not cared for in a unit like Barrett”.
The Government was also told that managing the troubled teenagers in the community was “associated with complexities of risk to self and others”.
A report commissioned by Queensland Health stated bluntly that: “Interim service provision if BAC closes and Tier 3 is not available is associated with risk.”
The ABC spoke to the parents of the three teenagers and they were united in their criticism over the closure of the Barrett Centre and the transitional arrangements for their children.