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Response to Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Response to Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

By LIV Media

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The Law Institute of Victoria welcomes the release of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System Final Report.

LIV President Tania Wolff said the release of the report was a red-letter day.

“As a lawyer who works with those who are suffering most from mental health and addiction in the community who get caught up in the revolving door of the criminal justice system, the release of the report offers new hope,” Ms Wolff said.

Ms Wolff said the focus on treating addictions and mental health in an integrated way and responding with compassion was also welcome.

In 2019, the LIV provided a submission to the Royal Commission featuring 50 recommendations and are pleased by the extent to which these recommendations have been reflected in the final report.

Lawyers are often frontline workers with clients suffering mental health issues being overrepresented in the criminal justice system and being vulnerable to family breakdowns and exploitation. In preparing the LIV’s submission, it was apparent amongst lawyers from all practice areas that the demand for the state’s mental health services has overtaken the system’s capacity.

The LIV is particularly supportive of this need to greatly expand the mental health system across the state such as additional beds for Thomas Embling, expanding the Assessment and Referral Court, establishing up to 60 community-based adult mental health services and introduce 22 high-level treatment services through hospitals. Additionally, the focus on indirect interventions such as ensuring sufficient dwellings are assigned to Victorians living with mental illness is backed by strong evidence that accommodation stability improves mental health and wellbeing.

The LIV welcomes the Royal Commission’s ambitious reinvention of the mental health system including the phasing out of seclusion and restraints and moving away from a medication-based system to an integrated service approach.

Whilst the LIV supports the establishment of the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission and a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, the short timeline for these to be introduced raises some concerns. It is more important that these be established with sufficient consideration and consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

The economic slowdown as a result of COVID-19 creates a tremendous opportunity for the government to inject a once in a generation stimulus package into recreating how Victoria approaches mental health, which will improve the lives of Victorians for many years to come.


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