Mental health services failing Victorians

The Royal Commission found that Victoria’s mental health service was failing Victorians and set out the many ways in which consumers of mental health services were being let down, and the under-investment in services – a shockingly broken system in which the abuse of the human rights of people was a regular feature.

It chronicled the excessive workloads and burnout experienced by mental health clinicians, and the problems of attracting and retaining a skilled mental health workforce, and in particular psychologists and psychiatrists. It described the workforce as being distressed by the inability to provide services to consumers.

In its 2019 Interim Report the Royal Commission recommended that the government fund an additional 60 graduate allied health, psychology and pharmacist entry level positions in public mental health services each year, to help grow the clinical workforce.

No positions were funded in 2020 or 2021.

In the 2021-2022 Budget the Victorian government only provided enough funding for 43 positions in 2022 – not the 60 positions recommended by the RC.

The government has already broken is unequivocal promise to fund all of the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health Services.

Of the 43 funded graduate placement positions, 37 will be social work and occupational therapy graduates, there will be only 6 psychology Registrar positions and no pharmacist positions.

This program is one of the first to be implemented by the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Division of the Department of Health. The Division has been tasked with implementing the Recommendations of the Royal Commission, and to develop a Mental Health and Workforce Strategy by December 2021.

It’s not a good start and does not bode well for the implementation of the Royal Commission’s vision for an expanded and functioning public mental health services that delivers quality treatment care and support to Victorian’s suffering mental illness and psychological distress. Without the required funding the recommended reforms to the mental health system will not happen.

The VPA will be taking the matter up with the Minister for Mental Health.

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