VCOSS recently published its 2016-17 State Budget Submission Putting People back in the picture. A series of blogs will examine some of the proposals in the submission.
Recently the Victorian government released a 10-year plan Mental Health Plan. The 10-year plan recognises that mental health is everyone’s business and that other sectors and systems have a role in addressing the social determinants of health and wellbeing, building resilient communities and laying the foundations for good mental health. It commits to co-designing with consumers, carers and families.
The 10-year plan identifies 15 outcomes including:
- Closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians
- Reducing the suicide rate
- Promoting mental health early in life
- Supporting through recovery-oriented, trauma-informed, family including services that build optimism and hope
- Providing people with genuine choice about treatment options, rehabilitation and support.
- Ensuring people with mental illness, their families and carers have universal access to public services.
The 10-year plan also identifies immediate actions to be achieved within six months, including developing:
- A whole-of-Victorian government suicide prevention framework
- An Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework
- A mental health workforce strategy.
In our submission to the plan consultation process, VCOSS recommended the 10-year plan articulate a vision for a comprehensive, integrated mental health system that recognises the vital role of community mental health support services.
However there remains some uncertainty about the Victorian government’s vision for community mental health services, as we transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). During the 2014 election campaign, the ALP committed to ensuring people living with mental illness will continue to have access to community mental health support services. However the 10-year plan provides little detail on how this will be achieved, besides recognising the need to limit disruption in the transition to the NDIS,
The VCOSS 2016-17 State Budget Submission Putting people back in the picture recommends the Victorian government support the recovery of people living with mental illness by investing in community mental health support services and ensuring they are available outside the NDIS system.
Community mental health services provide psychosocial rehabilitation and support services, helping people with a range of mental health issues stay well and able to work, study, care for their children and families, and participate in community life.
Unlike in other states, all of Victoria’s mental health community support funds have been committed to the NDIS. While the precise eligibility requirements for the NDIS continue to evolve, it is likely that there will be an ongoing need for community mental health services to be provided outside the NDIS system.
VCOSS is concerned that if people currently using community mental health services are deemed ineligible for NDIS support, they will no longer be able to rely on their current support services, putting their recovery and mental wellbeing at risk. The episodic nature of some mental illness may not meet the ‘permanent disability criteria’ required for NDIS eligibility. Some people with mental illness may also be uncomfortable describing their condition as permanent, because their aim is to become well and live as unaffected by their mental health condition as possible.
The trial site in Barwon has already shown there are significant gaps for mental health consumers and carers.
To be eligible for NDIS funding one has to sign an agreement that one is permanently disabled. It’s a major moral dilemma. They don’t know what they are asking us to sign. It’s saying ‘I give up, I’m never going to recover’.”
As well as continued access to vital community mental health services, the VCOSS State Budget Submission 2016-17 also calls on the government to:
- Establish a mechanism for driving systemic change, monitoring the effectiveness of reforms and enhancing the voice of consumers and carers. A Mental Health Commission is one possible mechanism.
- Support peer workforce development.
- Provide capital investment to help build the infrastructure of Victoria’s community health services.
- Improve young people’s access to community mental health services by reducing barriers and clarifying pathways to support.
 VICSERV, Learn and Build in Barwon: The impact of the NDIS scheme on the provision of mental health services in the Barwon launch site, June 2015, p. 6.
 Participant in event, Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria, NDIS: Victorians with mental illness miss out, 31 October 2014.