THE Magistrates’ Court in Bendigo will be among 13 statewide to receive a boost in mental health support services.
Victorian Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley is expected to announce more than $12 million for a Mental Health Advice and Response Service.
The program will be offered in five regional courts, including Bendigo, and eight metropolitan courts.
A spokesperson for the Magistrates’ Court expected the service to reduce delays in proceedings and remands.
“The program enables clinical services to intervene early in the criminal justice process by identifying whether individuals charged with an offence and appearing before the court have a mental illness, and linking them to treatment providers when required,” they said.
“Specialist advice will be given to magistrates on the mental health of individuals appearing before the court to support fully informed judicial determinations, including bail and sentencing decisions, and the ability of the accused to participate in court proceedings.”
Bendigo Magistrates’ Court is already home to a Mental Health Court Liaison Service.
The spokesperson said additional specialist clinical staff would be allocated to Bendigo court to undertake mental health assessments of court users.
Bendigo Health is among six service providers statewide that will run the MHARS program.
The executive director of Bendigo Health’s Psychiatric Services, Phil Tune, said the resources would be implemented as funding was made available.
“This will impact on appropriate sentencing, including the use of Mental Health Treatment and Rehabilitation conditions to Community Corrections Orders,” he said.
Victorian Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, said programs like MHARS could help end the cycle of incarceration and recidivism and reduce unnecessarily punitive court decisions to people who really needed support.
“They are particularly important for courts in Victoria’s regional centres, where mental health challenges, alcohol and drug-related issues are regular features of the court system,” he said.
More than a quarter of prisoners were on medication for a mental health condition when the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare compiled The health of Australia’s prisoners 2015 report.