Vic likely to pay levy to fix ‘unprepared’ mental health system

Doug Hendrie

28/11/2019 4:18:57 PM

Services must work ‘seamlessly’ with primary and acute care, the royal commission affirms. 

Premier Daniel Andrews
Premier Daniel Andrews described the Victorian mental health interim report as ‘damning reading’.

‘We don’t want to fill in the potholes, we want a new road.’
That’s how one Victorian with a mental illness summed up the need for a vastly better system of mental health care.
The State Government is promising to come to the table, with Premier Daniel Andrews accepting all recommendations from the interim report by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which has received more than 16,000 submissions and heard from almost 100 people with a mental illness.
The most striking recommendation is the call for Victorians to pay a new levy – similar to the fire services levy – to fix the state’s ailing mental health system.
At a press conference, royal commission Chair Penny Armytage said the lack of investment in mental health services represents a societal failure.
‘We do not believe that the standard budget processes will prioritise mental health in the way that it needs to,’ she said. ‘[T]here needs to be a dedicated funding stream, which will ensure ongoing growth in capacity within the system.’
In a foreword, Ms Armytage and commissioners call for a system of ‘genuinely staged care that matches individuals’ changing needs’.
‘Mental health services must work seamlessly with primary care services at one end and acute services at the other so that people no longer fall through cracks between different levels and types of services,’ she said.
The report focuses on the issue of the ‘missing middle’ – service shortfalls for people who have an illness too complex to be able to be treated by primary care alone, but who are deemed ‘not sick enough’ for specialist mental health services.
Witness Amelia Morris told the royal commission what it was like to encounter the system while unwell.
‘When I took that really, really difficult step, that really heartbreaking step of trying to ask for help, there was really nothing there for me. I was kind of greeted with silence in return,’ she said.
‘So, that’s just really distressing when you take that very difficult step of asking for help, and there is just nothing there. It makes you feel very hopeless and like you’re really never gonna [sic] get better.’
Poor mental health costs the state $14.2 billion a year, the report estimates. It also found the mental health system leaves many Victorians without access to suitable care, while those who do find care find it difficult to navigate.
In a Facebook post, Premier Andrews described the report as ‘damning reading’.
‘Seven hundred and twenty Victorians took their own life last year. We failed every single one of them,’ he wrote.
‘We failed the people whose lives and potential were limited by mental health conditions. We failed the people who looked for support and couldn't find it. And our Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System is showing the true extent of that failure.
‘Too many Victorians are being turned away by overloaded mental health services. Too many aren’t getting the care they need when they need it.
‘It won’t be easy. It won’t be cheap. And it will take time. But when the cost of failure is measured in human lives – we can’t afford not to act.’
The report also calls for 170 new youth and adult acute mental health beds, better suicide prevention initiatives through hospital outreach, and a new international recruitment drive to boost the state’s mental health workforce.
The report found Victoria’s system is ‘difficult to navigate’, with complexity and fragmentation contributing to delays in care.
‘Underinvestment in public specialist clinical mental health services, at a time of strongly growing demand, has led to people being turned away from community-based and inpatient services and receiving less care,’ it stated.
‘Crisis presentations to emergency departments have increased, as has the involvement of ambulance and police services due to the flow-on effects of system failures.’

mental health primary care royal commission Victoria

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Dr Paul Vernon Jenkinson   29/11/2019 11:44:36 PM

Premier Andrews says 720 Victorians tragically took their own life last year.Next year,because of his euthanasia legislation,he’ll will have to add to the total the people who were helped by doctors to kill themselves because they had lost hope too.Mental health care should extend to the terminally ill.