Victoria Legal Aid

Our roadmap for a fairer mental health system for Victorians

We have made 57 recommendations for change to create a better and fairer system for people experiencing mental health issues in Victoria.

Monday 20 July 2020 12:00am

People experiencing mental health issues in Victoria deserve a system that respects their rights, gives them a genuine say in their treatment and supports them to live well in the community.

We make 57 recommendations for reform to achieve this vision in Paving the roads to recovery: Building a better system for people experiencing mental health issues in Victoria.

These recommendations are informed by our practice experience and build on the formal submission we made to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System in 2019.

‘We have a vision of a consumer-led system, where all Victorians who need help can access tailored and culturally safe services that are appropriate for their needs and individual circumstances,’ said Rowan McRae, Executive Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity.

Our 57 recommendations include:

  • Making the Independent Mental Health AdvocacyExternal Link (IMHA) service available and accessible for all people on compulsory treatment orders
  • More flexible and holistic community and voluntary treatment options
  • A commitment to supported decision making and least restrictive treatment
  • Specialist and integrated services for young people across Victoria
  • A series of recommendations to reduce the disproportionate number of people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system.

‘People receiving, or at risk of receiving, compulsory treatment should have as much say as possible in their assessment, treatment and recovery, and greater access to legal and non-legal advocacy will help them to do that,’ said Rowan.

‘An independent evaluation of IMHA found it plays an instrumental role in helping people to have as much of a say as possible, and it should be available to everyone who needs it.’

‘If IMHA was available to all people on compulsory treatment orders more people would have the choice to access their advocacy and support at the start of an order,’ said Rowan.

‘Improving consumers’ access to legal advocacy is also an important way to ensure their rights are respected.’

The Mental Health Act was designed to embed supported decision-making, recovery and least restrictive practice into Victoria’s mental health system, but our clients frequently tell us this is not their experience.

Watch Michelle’s story to understand the distress some people experience in compulsory treatment.

‘We need more voluntary and flexible treatment options in the community that bridge the gap between the 10 sessions available under a mental health care plan and the crisis-based response of hospitalisation,’ said Rowan.

‘All services should be of a standard that everyone would be happy to use themselves.’

When it is appropriate for people to undergo treatment and rehabilitation in secure extended care units (SECUs) there needs to be a greater focus on discharge and transition planning, including step-down programs and community-based treatment.

There needs to be greater oversight, transparency and accountability across the mental health system to ensure the rights of people in the system are truly protected.

‘We are pleased to offer these recommendations based on the experiences of our consumers, clients and staff to the Royal Commission as it continues its important work,’ said Rowan.

‘Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic we appreciate the Commissioners’ determination to continue to gather evidence from a range of organisations and, most importantly, people with a lived experience of the system.’

More information

Read about our engagement with the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and download our recommendations document.

Read about our recommendations to bring a more therapeutic approach to the criminal justice system.

Watch Michelle’s story to understand why having an advocate of your choice is so important.

Watch Abe’s story to understand the benefits of a therapeutic approach in the criminal justice system.

Reviewed 16 May 2022

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