Consumer advocate Sandra Morgan has been recognised today as the NSW Community Champion at the 2015 Mental Health Matters Awards.
Sandra’s award follows her outstanding work leading the relocation of 20 people who were long-stay mental health patients from Kenmore Psychiatric Hospital in Goulburn to community-based accommodation. Sandra played a pivotal role in securing the right type of new accommodation and support arrangements for these individuals as they transitioned back into the community after, for most, many years in hospital. The project took approximately three years to complete and people are still able to come back to the unit if the need arises.
Sandra praises the care that the patients received at Kenmore and all the staff who work there. But she said, “A hospital is not a home. Even though the care was excellent and the staff very attentive, the patients wanted to go home and were in a position to be transitioned back into the community. In most cases their original homes no longer existed but we found them new homes that were in a location they preferred, or close to family and friends.”
The Awards, hosted by WayAhead (formerly the Mental Health Association NSW), recognise achievements across ten categories where individuals and organisations have worked to improve understanding, awareness, service provision and the general mental health of communities in NSW.
The Community Champion Award is supported by the Mental Health Commission of NSW to recognise an outstanding individual or grassroots organisation that the Commissioner or Commission staff have met during the year.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said, “I am delighted that Sandra is this year’s Community Champion. It is so important that people who have experienced long stays in hospitals are supported to make the transition back into the community. The work of Sandra and the team at Kenmore demonstrates that this can be achieved with care and consideration for patients and their families. Sandra truly is an inspiration and her work provides a template for how this important transition needs to be carried out.”
David West, Director of Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol for the Southern NSW Local Health District, which manages the Kenmore Hospital, said, “Sandra worked above and beyond her normal day to day duties to bring this project to fruition. She is well respected and liked by the staff and most importantly she is trusted by consumers. I am very proud for Sandra on receiving this prestigious award and being formally recognised for all her hard work and determination.”
As a consequence of her success, Sandra is now the consumer consultant for the Pathways to Community Living Initiative, the state-wide program that will develop individual support plans to assist up to 380 long-term patients to transition, where possible, to a home in the community and to live there successfully.
“I enjoy being a consumer advocate because I can make small differences in people’s lives on a personal level and effect larger differences on a systemic level. I feel that this makes the work that I do really worthwhile,” Sandra said.
Congratulations Sandra! View a video from Sandra below: