Thursday, December 2, 2010

Australia advocates say, disabled people are being being sedated with anti-psychotic drugs to control them

From Adelaide Now in Australia:

Disabled people are being being sedated with anti-psychotic drugs to control them, the Public Advocate says.

John Brayley said a lack of resources and legal protection meant frustrated people who were violent or "act out" were victims of the "hidden practice" of using strong medication meant only for psychotic people.

"The correct practice is for a person to be assessed and have a plan put in place to try to prevent any outbursts," he said. "Our concern is that many people with disabilities are started on anti-psychotic drugs even though they don't have a psychiatric diagnosis.

"This is chemical restraint. It's poorly recognised in this state. We do not have the same legislative protections that occur in Victoria or Queensland. We fall short in most areas."

He said there was over-use of physical restraint such as locking people in rooms and he was concerned vulnerable people were handing over 80 per cent of their pensions in return for a room with a stranger, with poor heating or cooling and bad food.

Only an overhaul of the laws would protect the vulnerable, he said.

About 800 people with disabilities live in supported residential facilities. These privately owned facilities receive Government subsidies and 79 per cent of the person's pension in return for shelter and care.

But Mr Brayley's staff have found the quality of care varies from very good to woefully inadequate.

"Many people are in a shared room. They are living with a stranger (who) could potentially be decades older than them," he said. "Many SRFs are in older buildings that have poor heating or cooling. Sometimes our staff visit clients in the middle of winter to find them huddling under doonas."

The State Government said there were several improvements in the SRF sector recently, with new facilities providing single bedrooms. There are also new restraining guidelines for government organisations.

A spokeswoman for Families and Communities Minister Jennifer Rankine said a Disability Services Act review would begin soon and Ms Rankine would receive new advice on the best model of protecting vulnerable people by the end of the year.

"(There have) been significant changes in community attitudes and expectations over the past decade, and a growing commitment to a more inclusive approach to the design and delivery of services to people with disabilities," she said.