Cash-strapped frontline mental health services can’t wait until after the Royal Commission for funding relief.
Victoria’s Mental Health Royal Commission is doing great work setting a long term roadmap for meaningful reform. The interim report, released a few weeks ago, gives us an early look at that plan and lays out the first steps for a system that works.
The nine recommendations made in the interim report are considered and thoughtful. They put people with lived experience at the centre of the system, with key roles designing and delivering services.
They recognise the ongoing effects of trauma and decolonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities and the need for more Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing services.
They recognise the enablers, the building blocks, that will make the future system work – enough funding, a high quality workforce with the right mix of values, skills and experience, more research to expand the evidence base about what works.
All these recommendations will require dedicated funding in the 2020-21 State Budget.
But people with mental illness can’t wait. The system needs an immediate funding boost to keep services running properly while the Commission finishes its work.
The interim report recommends funding 170 extra youth and adult acute mental health beds to address urgent demand. This will help, and money should be allocated for it in the 2020-21 Budget.
Some of that money should be earmarked for the kind of innovative models examined by the Royal Commission, with treatment and care provided to people in their homes, not as a hospital inpatient.
But we also need more services right across the state.
We especially need more investment in community mental health services, that keep people out of hospital, help them recover at home and stay well.
And we can’t expect to make a real difference to the rates of mental illness in Victoria, if we don’t do something about the chronic lack of housing. More than one in six people who use public mental health services also access homelessness services. Without stable and secure housing, it is very difficult for people to have their other needs met.
- Brooke McKail is the VCOSS Acting Policy and Research Manager.