NSW Premier Morris Iemma officially opens Lismore Base Hospitals new $38 million mental health unit.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma officially opens Lismore Base Hospitals new $38 million mental health unit. David Nielsen

Premier opens Lismore's $38m mental health unit

MORRIS Iemma was not giving away any secrets on regional issues such as rail services and roads funding when he officially opened the new $38 million mental health unit at Lismore Base Hospital yesterday.

The NSW Premier took the opportunity to announce an extra $14 million for mental health would be allocated in next week's State Budget

The money will come on top of the $1 billion already allocated for mental health and will help to establish a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week community mental health care service for 17 hospitals around the State, including Lismore.

"It needs to be regarded as a mainstream health issue. It needs to be regarded and treated just like cancer, just like chronic lung disease, just like diabetes, and just like all those other health issues that our wonderful hospitals and community health facilities are built for," Mr Iemma said yesterday.

Nearly $7 million of the money will be used to extend the Community Mental Health Emergency Care program, $2.1 million to expand services for older people and $3.1 million to expand the community rehabilitation program.

But the Premier was non-committal on a range of other important issues for Northern Rivers residents.

When The Northern Star asked about State Government funding for the Alstonville bypass, Mr Iemma said: "You'll have to wait until next Tuesday's Budget. I can't give all the Budget information out, but I welcome the Commonwealth's contribution."

When asked about the future of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, he said he was waiting for a cross-border taskforce report being done in association with the Queensland Government, looking at the possibility of a rail link between the two states.

"That work is a week or two from being completed. Then I'll be in a position to release the report and announce what response there will be from government."

When asked about State Government intervention into North Coast development applications, Mr Iemma said: "Projects of State significance are all about ensuring that investment and jobs are happening in NSW and not caught up with red tape."

Mr Iemma was unable to say when stage three of the Lismore Base Hospital upgrade would commence. "It's on the 10-year State infrastructure plan," he said.

The new mental health unit at Lismore Base includes 40 acute in-patients beds and a specialist eight-bed child and adolescent unit.

"It's all about support, care and compassion for the mentally ill, and what we have in Lismore now is a state-of-the-art facility. The best in the nation, providing top-class health care for people with mental illness," Mr Iemma said.

"Being treated closer to home allows people to receive greater support from families and carers, and will help people with a mental illness in their recovery back into the community."

Mr Iemma said for many decades governments had marginalised the problems of the mentally ill and locked them away.


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