Lifeline for carers

Anthony Radford | Bendigo Weekly | 20-Oct-2011 3.25pm

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WELCOME NEWS: The O'Sullivan family at home.
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A  BENDIGO family who cannot find respite for their severely autistic teenager have welcomed a State Government plan to fund new services.

In October 2009, the Bendigo Weekly published an emotional letter from Carolyn and Mick O’Sullivan.

The O’Sullivan family had just been through a lot. Then eight-year-old Connor had just gone into remission from leukemia.

However, the family was facing another great challenge.

Then 14-year-old Holly  has severe autism and requires around-the-clock care. Her condition has deteriorated with the onset of adolescence and she has become mentally and physically unmanageable.

Despite all this, the city’s medical fraternity seemingly threw up its hands and could not provide the family with the support, respite or solution it needed. The article created attention, and some respite was given, but, almost two years on, Mrs O’Sullivan said longer-term respite was no closer, and the Department of Human Services, and other medical services, still had no solution.

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge last week announced $41 million of funding to set up new, innovative and flexible disability respite services across the state.

Mrs O’Sullivan said the funding was a good start.

“This will be a very promising step in the right direction for improving the lives of those with a profound disability and/or mental illness in Victoria,” she said.

“Support for this long-suffering group of individuals has always been nothing short of pitiful. 

“With no other option available, many have been forced to relinquish their loved ones into the care of the state. 

“Other options include placement in a nursing home, or caravan park/motel unit. These options are inappropriate and highly distressing for children and young people with disabilities and mental illness and heartbreaking for their loved ones. 

“They deserve so much more.” 

Mrs O’Sullivan said the funding could be a long-awaited lifeline for parents and carers such as herself. 

“My husband and I care for our daughter full-time as school is no longer an option due to her degree of mental instability,” she said. 

“I am surprised at how often I have to explain to people in this region that there is nowhere for our daughter to go now, part-time, full-time or for even a few hours. 

“It is ironic that under government guidelines, families such as ours are entitled to a break from our daughter for approximately 63 days per year in out-of-home respite accommodation. 

“Towns like Geelong, Ballarat and Wodonga, just to name a few, provide this out-of-home respite accommodation for between $15 and $20 per night. 

“This is not an option in Bendigo as it does not exist.”

Mrs O’Sullivan said it was important the funding set up multiple respite facilities.

“In Bundaberg, they have one respite home for 5 to 18 year olds and one for those 18 years and over. And in other towns there are respite homes for short stay and others for longer stays,” she said.

“Our daughter recently suffered from psychosis due to withdrawal from long-term anti-psychotic medication. 

“We could not get her admitted into psychiatric care in Bendigo as she was not 18. 

“Many others have faced this situation or similar. Our region desperately needs a psychiatric wing dedicated to the care of children and young adults and funding such as this could change this deplorable situation.

“Submissions end on November 10,  so the time to act is now. Bendigo could be the jewel in the crown for those who suffer from a mental illness and or profound disability. 

“Ignorance and despair could be a thing of the past.”

Michelle Meppem commented on 24-Oct-2011 12:46 PM5 out of 5 stars
I feel for this family. My daughter has High functioning Autism and ADHD,(and is medicated at SCHOOL ONLY!) My world has been turned upside down and sideways with adolescence kicking in. My daughter does not qualify for ANY form of respite and never has.
It took 9yrs to get a diagnosis. A VERY POOR EFFORT on PEADIATRICS side. Do Not live in MILDURA, Vic if you have ANY MENTAL HEALTH issues..You will be sent elsewhere anyway.
Reader commented on 11-Nov-2011 05:12 PM5 out of 5 stars
To Caz and Mick and all the other families out there who like myself,know all the issues and difficulties with Service Provision (and the limitations)this Region faces lets hope this eventuates.I know you and I know how very difficult it is for all of
you.You are fantastic People,parents and a loving family and a real asset to our Community. NB;Lets hope too that there is funding actually available for 'New' DHS Disabilty Service clients.We were told that we are on the lists now but that there is no funding
available.Also no services for those with Acquired Brain injury and/or Dual Disabilties! For such a large and rapidly growing Region the services are sorely lacking and Sooo desperately needed NOW.

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