Mental health services: Victoria ‘lags significantly’ behind other states

By David Donaldson

Monday March 25, 2019

Watercolor illustration of lonely woman in the forest

A lack of planning and investment has left Victorians with poorer access to mental health services than people in other states, says the state auditor.

And until the system can operate in more than crisis mode, the government should not expect improvements in the mental health of the population, argues a Victorian Auditor General’s Office report released last week.

“The lack of sufficient and appropriate system-level planning, investment, and monitoring over many years means the mental health system in Victoria lags significantly behind other jurisdictions in the available funding and infrastructure, and the percentage of the population supported”, says the report.

The Department of Health and Human Services “has done too little to address the imbalance between demand for, and supply of, mental health services in Victoria”, says the auditor.

DHHS “understands the extent of the problem well and has been informed by multiple external reviews”, says VAGO, but in its 10 year mental health plan there are a range of deficiencies:

  • There are no clear targets or measures to monitor progress in improving access
  • There are no forward plans for the capital infrastructure needed
  • The workforce strategy does not address the particular issues in regional and rural areas and fails to articulate specific targets
  • There is no work to address barriers to access created by geographic catchment areas.

“Real progress is unlikely within the life of the plan unless DHHS accelerates and directs effort towards the fundamentals: funding, workforce and capital infrastructure,” says the report.

“Until the system has the capacity to operate in more than just crisis mode, DHHS cannot expect to be able to make meaningful improvements to clinical care models or the mental health of the Victorian population.”

The Royal Commission into Mental Health “will undoubtedly highlight many areas for improvement” across the system.

“However, the need for planning and investment to meet demand is already known and as such work to address this should not await the commission’s recommendations.”

The department accepted recommendations and said the audit provided a timely opportunity to build on the foundation of its 10 year plan.

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