FORENSIC mental health patients who have killed or committed violent crimes, but found not guilty on the grounds of mental illness, are training in Orange as part of their rehabilitation, through an arrangement with TAFE and Orange Health Service.
However, consultant psychiatrist and Bloomfield Hospital Macquarie Unit clinical director Dr Nicholas Burns says patients are subject to tight restrictions, reviews and treatment under the Mental Health Act, which includes controls over their movements and engagement with the community.
“People who fall into these categories are carefully managed and a comprehensive assessment and review is involved,” he said.
The forensic mental health patients are accompanied in the community by a health worker during their work placement.
The Department of Education and Communities and Orange Health Service have confirmed some patients are engaged in training programs as part of their rehabilitation, saying risk assessments have been carried out on individuals who take part in training programs.
Dr Burns said study and vocational training were among strategies used to rehabilitate forensic patients.
The Central Western Daily has been made aware of at least two men who killed family members, who are training through TAFE.
One was recognised by a member of the ward staff at Calare Nursing Home, who alerted management.
“The trouble is these people don’t show up with a criminal check as they don’t have a criminal record,” said the staff member, who did not want to be named.
A spokesperson for Allity, which owns Calare Nursing Home, says a complaint has been lodged with the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
“We have written to the Mental Health Review Tribunal to express concern about the current process for assessing the suitability of mental health service patients for work placement in aged care settings,” the spokesperson said.
Councillor Glenn Taylor addressed Orange City Council, saying he had heard rumours of forensic patients training in the community and he wanted a clarification from Orange Health Service.
“I am not in any way denigrating people in the community with a mental illness,” he said.
“But I think people who have to work in our community alongside the patients from the unit have a right to know and have a right to feel safe by having all the appropriate information.”
Cr Taylor said he was of the understanding that serious offenders would not be released into the community.
“Council was given an assurance at the time that there were no risks involved,” he said.