Funding stagnates for prison mental facility
THE hospital that treats Tasmanian prisoners with mental illness has not had its funding increased in the past decade while prisoner numbers have increased more than 50 per cent in that time, an inquest has heard.
Coroner Simon Cooper is investigating the circumstances surrounding North Hobart shopkeeper Voula Delios's death.
Mrs Delios, 68, was stabbed by Daryl Royston Wayne Cook, a diagnosed schizophrenic, on July 23, 2016, the day after he was released from a year in prison.
A Supreme Court jury last year found Cook not guilty of murder on the ground he was insane at the time.
The state's chief psychiatrist Aaron Groves gave evidence in the Hobart Coroners Court on Wednesday.
Dr Groves was co-chairman of a prisoner mental health care taskforce, established after Mrs Delios's death.
The group recommended the Tasmania Health Service implement a model of care that takes into account current and projected demand for mental health services from the prison population.
Counsel assisting the coroner Jane Ansell read from the report that the state's prison population had increased from 414 in June 2008 to 681 in March this year.
Ms Ansell asked Dr Groves if funding had increased over the same period to the Wilfred Lopes Centre for forensic mental health, which is not part of the prison but is where prisoners needing specialist mental health care are treated.
"To the best of my knowledge it hasn't," Dr Groves said.
He also said this year's budget allocation for the Wilfred Lopes Centre was "in line with previous years".
"You still have the same resources in place despite there being a significant increase in the prison population," Ms Ansell said.
"That's correct," Dr Groves said.
The court heard the Wilfred Lopes Centre had capacity for 35 patients but was only funded to house 23.
Dr Groves said the new prison for the North of the state would be a further strain on prisoner mental health services.
Dr Groves said it was difficult to retain and attract forensic mental health specialists. He said this was an issue around Australia.
The inquest continues.