Mental Health Services in Ballarat – Ministerial Response

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Original constituency question from Juliana Addison MP to Parliament –

My question is directed to the Minister for Mental Health.

Following the tabling of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, how will Ballarat community members who experience mental illness access better treatment, care and support as a result of the recommendations handed down in the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System?

The final report is 3195 pages, following two years of community consultation, the contribution of 12 500 Victorians, the advice of experts and the careful deliberations of the commissioners. We welcome the 65 additional recommendations, and I am pleased that the government will adopt every recommendation.

Mental health impacts all of us, either directly or indirectly. I am confident that by rebuilding our entire mental health system we will provide the quality care all Victorians deserve and will save lives.


Response from the Hon James Merlino MP, Minister for Mental Health (23rd April 2021)  –

I thank the Member for Wendouree for her question.

We know that the current mental health system is letting down people who need it most. In rural and regional areas this is exacerbated by a lack of local services as well as limited availability of specialist expertise, private mental healthcare or services for infants, children and young people. Workforce shortages are also more pronounced in rural and regional areas and, most concerningly, self-harm and suicide rates are higher in rural and regional Victoria than in metropolitan areas.

The Royal Commission’s final report presents a vision for a future mental health and wellbeing system that adapts and responds to the needs of all Victorians. In recognition of the additional challenges that regional Victorians such as those in Ballarat face, a number of recommendations will have particular benefits for rural and regional communities.

The future mental health and wellbeing system envisaged by the Royal Commission will provide a more holistic approach to good mental health and wellbeing across the community and help people to access the right treatment and support for their individual needs, close to home.

In the future system, most people who need treatment, care and support will access the system through new and refreshed Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Services. Local services will make it easier for people of all ages to get help earlier, before they reach crisis point. They will also provide a clear and easy-to-navigate pathway to higher intensity services and other social services, as required.

The precise location of the new local services will be informed by demand modelling. However, for those operating in regional Victoria, additional resources will be provided to ensure they can deliver services to small or geographically isolated rural communities. Further, new digital service delivery initiatives that increase accessibility and meet the needs of local communities will be trialled.

To address long standing workforce shortages, new incentives will also be introduced to support the attraction and retention of the mental health and wellbeing workforce in rural and regional areas.

A fundamental change recommended by the Royal Commission is to realign existing mental health and wellbeing service boundaries and create eight regions. We will work to ensure that these revised boundaries for regions align with planning and service delivery boundaries for health and other social services, and other existing boundaries such as Primary Health Networks and alcohol and other drug service catchments.

These new regions will serve as the foundation in improving the provision and delivery of mental health. In each region, there will be two parallel systems in operation. One will be a system for adults and older adults, and the other for infants, children and young people. This system will operate across every electorate across Victoria.

Importantly, to ensure the system remains relevant to the community it serves, each region will have a legislated Regional Mental Health and Wellbeing Board to lead engagement with their respective communities and undertake workforce, service and capital planning for mental health and wellbeing services in their area.

Critically, Boards will include at least one person with lived experience of mental illness or psychological distress and one person with lived experience as a family member or carer. As was the case throughout the Royal Commission’s tenure, the voices of Victorians, including those living in Ballarat, will continued to be valued and heard.

Overall, the Royal Commission’s reforms will support those in Ballarat and other regional communities to have better access to specialist and developmentally appropriate mental health treatment, care and support closer to home.