A Ballarat doctor who treated a troubled 16-year-old boy for overdosing on pills before the teen took his own life says if a similar patient came to him now, he wouldn’t know where to send him.
Youth mental health services are “patchy” inBallarat and a lack of mental health nurses means people needing a mental health care plan “slip through the cracks”, Dr Wayne McDonald told the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday.
An inquest is being held into the death of Kyle Ray Charles Sears who died after dousing himself in petrol and setting himself alight on July 3, 2013.
Dr McDonald treated Kyle after the teen took 70 Panadol tablets in the months before his death.
He told the inquest he relied on a psychologist, who was also treating Kyle, to take charge of his mental health treatment.
He had previously been dissatisfied with the response of Centre Against Sexual Assault and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and was concerned about long delays and non-compliance, so did not make any referrals.
“In Ballarat the services were very patchy,” Dr McDonald said.
“The theme here is a lack of co-ordination and lack of knowing who else is involved.”
General practitioners prepare chronic disease plans with their patients.
But a lack of mental health nurses mean patients needing that mental health care don’t get the same attention, Dr McDonald said.
Asked by the coroner what he would do if a patient like Kyle presented to him now, he said: “I’m not sure where I would go for help.”
The inquest heard Kyle had a troubled upbringing with alleged exposure to substance abuse and sexualised behaviour in Adelaide, where he was raised.
The teen had spent some time living on the street and had fled to Ballarat to live with a 49-year-old man he had befriended online.
Victoria’s child protection services did not independently verify information given to them by Kyle when they interviewed him not long before he died, the court has heard.
Kyle had a long child protection history in South Australia, but Victoria’s Department of Human Services services did not attempt to get his SA history.
Child protection also did not interview the man Kyle was living with, after being satisfied with Kyle’s account they were not in a sexual relationship and lived as housemates, the coroner heard in an inquest that continues.
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