The Andrews Government released the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System on 2 March 2021. It promised to implement all 65 recommendations, plus a further nine recommendations from the interim report.
Two years on, how are we doing? Here’s a progress report:
Mental Health and Wellbeing Act
Passed in September 2022, Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 was part of the Royal Commission’s recommendation to repeal and the Mental Health Act 2014. The new Act will commence on 1 September 2023.
It includes an important amendment that embeds an occupational health and safety (OHS) committee to ensure better oversight of worker’s safety and workload issues. This was a recommendation contained in ANMF (Vic Branch’s) 2021 submission regarding the proposed Bill, and a direct result of members’ advocacy and lobbying for this amendment.
The 2022–2023 State Budget included an investment of $29.3 million to support the Act implementation, including training for the mental health sector to deliver new models of care, help for Victorians to understand their rights, and an independent review of compulsory treatment criteria.
This investment also includes funding for an embedded practitioner. Each mental health service has received EFT for a dedicated embedded practitioner to assist services to transition to the new Act and champion the Act and the values underpinning it. Embedded practitioners are mandated to attend and participate in the regular implementation forums to be convened by the sector implementation team in the Department of Health.
ANMF have been invited to participate in co-production of a training and education package to support implementation of the new Act. This will commence in March.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals
This new service is a result of Recommendation 3 of the final report.
The Royal Commission’s redesigned system called for service delivery across Victoria at local, area-based and state-wide levels comprising ‘between 50 to 60 new Adult and Older Adult Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Services that operate with extended hours and are delivered in a variety of settings’.
The initial six Locals are either already open, or in the process of planning their opening. These Locals are in the LGAs of Geelong, Brimbank, Whittlesea, Frankston, Latrobe City and Benalla/Wangaratta/Mansfield.
The next tranche of Locals has been announced to allocated in Dandenong, Shepparton, Melton, Mildura, Lilydale, Bendigo and Echuca, and Orbost and Bairnsdale.
ANMF will continue to be involved in consultation on the models of each of these Locals, including our firm position that mental health nurses working at Local services should be employed under public sector wages and conditions.
Recommendation 2 of the Royal Commission’s Interim Report reads: ‘The Royal Commission recommends that the Victorian Government, through the Victorian Health and Human Services Building Authority and the Mental Health Implementation Office, provides funding for 170 additional youth and adult acute mental health beds to help address critical demand pressures.’
As per this recommendation, the following news beds are scheduled:
- 30 beds at Northern Health – to be commissioned in June 2023
- 50 beds at Sunshine Health – due for completion Aug / Sept 2023
- 22 beds at Melbourne Health – due for completion February / March 2024.
This is in addition to the below beds newly opened:
- McKellar Mental Health and Wellbeing Unit (Barwon Health) – 16 beds older units, opened in 2022
- Mental Health Hospital in the Home (Barwon Health) – 9 beds fully operational since March 2022.
- Hospital in the Home (Orygen Health) – 15 beds for young people aged 12 to 25, opened since 2021.
ANMF is currently involved in the consultations on the Victorian Suicide Prevention and Response Strategy, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Capability Framework, and the strategy towards the elimination of seclusion and restraint.
In addition to the above, at the end of 2022 we provided members with a snapshot of work begun, ongoing and completed in the mental health space during 2022.
ANMF Royal Commission Working Group
This dedicated group of members continues to meet on a monthly basis, bringing together years of collective mental health nursing expertise across the state. This group ensures that our members are informing the Branch’s advocacy and engagement in the reform process.