By Gill Callister PSM
21 May 2021
The Victorian Budget’s $3.8 billion commitment is the biggest investment in mental health that I have ever seen.
It is the greatest reform in mental health in Victoria since the deinstitutionalisation of mental health services in the 1980s and 1990s, something some states are still in the process of implementing today.
Victoria led the way back then with this (then) new approach of supporting people with mental ill-health to live with full citizenship in the community. Somewhere along the way, we lost our way, and the default of an Emergency Department visit in lieu of holistic support to achieve sustained recovery may be remembered as the symbol of our failure in recent years to live up to that promise.
With this budget, the language of psychosocial recovery is back on the agenda and we have the opportunity to make good on that promise.
The value of this budget for the people we support is not just measured in the amount but in where and how it is to be allocated.
Following the Victorian government’s laudable commitment to implement all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, this budget will fund an ambitious structural reform of the mental health system.
The Royal Commission’s recommendations for changing the architecture of the system for a more holistic and community-focused mental health system are a game changer – and this funding powerfully launches the process to address critical need.
It is very gratifying to see the government has also strategically invested in early intervention and recovery support for children and young people, through our schools and communities. It is a well-known statistic that 75 percent of mental illness emerges between the ages of 12 and 25 and in our current system early experiences of mental ill-health too often become life-defining conditions when this need not happen.
I am especially conscious of the consumers, families and mental health professionals who played a significant role in providing evidence to the Royal Commission. This encompassed both how the existing system is failing people and the success and effectiveness we know a holistic recovery centred approach to mental health and wellbeing can have.
That testimony makes the release of the first Victorian budget following this landmark Royal Commission an important and hugely gratifying moment for our community – first to have been heard and now to have Victoria’s mental health system promised the resources and structural change it so desperately needs.
Like Medicare or the NDIS before it, an investment in the common good of this magnitude requires a secure source of funding: the Mental Health and Wellbeing Levy will ensure operational funding for mental health services into the future. A levy is never welcome but the alternative to a levy would require substantial takings from other areas of the budget. If we are to realise the reform needed then we have to find a sustainable way to fund it.
The Victorian government has done its job in both committing to the necessary reform and taking this big first step in investing in it and now it is up to us in the community sector to deliver. Mind is passionately committed to bringing the Commission’s reforms to life to give Victorians the mental health system they need.
Key budget initiatives
Earlier and better mental health support for Victoria’s youth
Funding of over $200 million will support a new school mental health fund, enabling schools to deliver tailored mental health and wellbeing support to their students.
$141 million provided to deliver five new 10-bed youth prevention and recovery care units in the Barwon South West, Gippsland, Grampians, Hume and North Eastern Metropolitan regions.
Three existing youth prevention and recovery care units will be upgraded in Bendigo, Dandenong and Frankston. This will give young people the care they need, closer to where they need it, to assist in their clinical and personal recovery.
$41 million will establish three new multi-disciplinary community-based hubs, which will take a one-stop approach to children's health.
A mental health and wellbeing system with lived experience at the core
$40.7 million to expand and support Victoria’s lived experience workforce.
$5 million towards establishing Victoria’s very first residential mental health service designed and delivered by people with lived experience.
$1 million in funding will support the establishment of a new non-government agency, led by people with lived experience, for people with lived experience
$18 million towards a new entity, the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The Centre will bring together people with lived experience, researchers and clinicians to establish best practice in adult mental health services, including conducting research, sharing knowledge and ensuring the real, lived experience of Victorians is at the heart of our response.
Designing a new statewide trauma service to better support people with lived experience of trauma
$1.7 million is provided to design a new statewide trauma service to achieve the best possible mental health and wellbeing outcomes for people with lived experience of trauma. This includes community engagement, policy development and co-design of the service with stakeholders and Victorians with lived experience of trauma.
New local services for adults and older adults in their communities
$264 million is provided to establish the first 20 new local adult and older adult mental health and wellbeing services for Victorians experiencing mild to moderate mental health challenges.
The services will be accessible and locally based, and will provide integrated mental health treatment, care and wellbeing supports delivered by a multidisciplinary team. An integrated alcohol and other drug services trial will be delivered in select sites to improve outcomes of people with a mental illness and substance misuse issues.
Reformed area services to better support the mental health and wellbeing of adults and older adults
$954 million is provided to establish 22 reformed adult and older adult area mental health and wellbeing services to replace current area mental health services. These 22 services will have a greater capacity to treat, care and support adults and older adults experiencing severe and complex mental health and wellbeing challenges.
A core function of these services will be to provide support to general practitioners and other primary and secondary care providers. This funding will also include pilots of integrated alcohol and other drugs treatment and wellbeing supports. Services will be delivered through a partnership between a public health service (or public hospital) and a non-government organisation that provides wellbeing supports.
A further $266 million will reform and expand Youth Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services and to support organisations providing mental health care to young people.
Strengthening system leadership, governance and accountability
$71.2 million is provided to support the establishment of an independent statutory authority, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, and the transfer of functions from Mental Health Reform Victoria to the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Division of the Department of Health, led by a Chief Officer for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Funding is also provided to bolster accountability structures for Victoria’s mental health system, including developing a mental health and wellbeing outcomes framework and a new performance monitoring and accountability framework.
Supported housing for adults and young people living with mental illness
$46 million funding is provided to ensure that people in supported housing have the mental health and wellbeing support they need to recover. Funding is also provided to undertake co design and planning for a further 500 supported housing places for young people living with mental illness.
Supporting families and carers
$93 million funding is provided to support families and carers of people with mental illness, including establishing eight family and carer-led centres across Victoria. This includes $23 million to expand the range of support across Victoria for young carers.