Accessing technology in secure mental health facilities – a case study.

Kim Rusten

Macquarie Unit, Orange Health Service – Bloomfield campus, Mental Health Drug & Alcohol services, Western NSW LHD, Locked Bag 6008, Orange NSW 2800. 

Background: Our lives are increasingly focussing on computer access via desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Mental health patients in psychiatric facilities have typically been restricted to accessing computers and smartphones during their admission, even though they may use the internet as much as the general population (Khazaal et al, 2008).  For patients in forensic and justice health services, their long admissions result in loss of knowledge, skills and confidence in using the evolving technologies. Method: Facilities, such as the Burrendong Room and the Macquarie Unit, provide access for patients to computers linked to the internet, under staff supervision.  The Burrendong Room and Macquarie Units were funded through a partnership between private and public services, with approval from MHDA executive for an external IT provider to set up software and maintain function. Results:  The statistics for use of the rooms, particularly the Burrendong Room, since 2010 has indicated increased use for groups and individual sessions, as well as TAFE courses in Information Technology. The MHDA service has recently been successful in obtaining training for staff and made a successful submission for a research grant into online cognitive remediation programs. Discussion: Barriers to progression have included delayed payment of invoices and slow upgrading of outdated hardware through the health service.  The urgency of providing access to computers for patients on campus is increasing an online cognitive remediation program pending.  The success of the facilities and the benefits of online cognitive remediation may assist allied health professionals to establish this resource in secure facilities.


Yvette Black is a Senior Occupational Therapist at the Bloomfield campus of the Orange Health Service, in Central West NSW.  She completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) at the University of Sydney in 2002, and a Masters of Forensic Mental Health at UNSW, graduating in June 2015. Yvette was a founding clinician of the Macquarie Unit in 2010, coming to the position with three years of experience in mental health services.  Yvette has worked in various areas of occupational therapy in rural and metropolitan areas including acute health, physical rehabilitation, disability access, and injury management.

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