CENTRAL Victorian service providers have welcomed the mental health royal commission's final report and the changes to follow.
Bendigo Community Health Services said it was time to take the opportunity for once in a generation change.
"The work begins to restore faith in our system and ensure what's put in place provides help and support to all those who need it," the organisation said in a statement.
Bendigo Community Health Services was among many organisations that made submissions to the Royal Commission, highlighting opportunities for increased funding for early intervention and health promotion and for work with children and young people.
It also called for more tailored supports for marginalised minority populations and for a greater focus on patients with both mental health and alcohol and other drug issues.
The Royal Commission made 65 recommendations, all of which the Victorian Government has accepted. The final report consists of five volumes and more than 3000 pages.
"These recommendations will serve as our blueprint for delivering the biggest social reform in a generation: Building our mental health system - from the ground up," Premier Daniel Andrews said.
He said reforms would require ongoing action, effort and commitment.
"None of this work can be achieved overnight," Mr Andrews said.
"But our goal is as simple as it is necessary: Taking mental health out of the 'too hard basket' once and for all - and making sure Victorians can access the care they need, when they need it, wherever they need it.
"Lives are counting on it."
A Bendigo Health spokesperson said any actions that could be taken to improve access, services and outcomes for people experiencing mental health issues were important.
"We look forward to playing our role in implementing these recommendations and continuing to provide Mental Health Services for the Loddon Campaspe Southern Mallee region," the spokesperson said.
Bendigo Health made a 26-page submission to the Royal Commission, in which it focused on the complex needs of people living in remote and rural communities - "a critical and too often overlooked component within the... mental health system."
Access and funding equity were among the challenges Bendigo Health detailed.
A more consumer-centred approach
The Royal Commission recommended the Victorian Government establish a system in which people were able to receive most mental health services locally and in the community.
It recommended regional bodies be established to help transition towards delivering services specific to the needs of each area.
The eight interim regional bodies would be superseded by regional mental health and wellbeing boards by the end of 2023.
The Royal Commission also recommended new health and wellbeing services be established throughout the state.
It made recommendations about bed-based services and about supporting the mental health of rural and regional Victorians.
Story continues below report's executive summary
Murray Primary Health Network chief executive Matt Jones said regional planning for state-funded services was a huge development, and one that complemented the approach for federally funded services.
He expected a significant portion of the new community mental health hubs to be based in regional Victoria.
"We anticipate that will really strengthen avenues for community-based services which is where that 'missing middle' is," Mr Jones said.
The "missing middle" refers to people for whom acute care is not appropriate, but who need a higher level of care than they are receiving through primary care.
The Royal Commission found the number of people in the "missing middle" was large - and growing.
It found the mental health system was overwhelmed and could not keep up with the number of people seeking treatment, care and support.
"People cannot access suitable services, and those who do access the system find it hard to navigate," the final report said.
"People living with mental illness or psychological distress wait long periods and become 'sicker' before they can gain access to services: increasingly, a person must exhibit signs of major distress or crisis before treatment, care and support are provided."
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Murray PHN has a role in commissioning mental health services, working to improve the way services are delivered, and analysing the region's needs.
Mr Jones outlined Murray PHN's roles and opportunities in his 35-page submission to the Royal Commission.
He said it was really important services were targeted to the range of needs within communities, and no one service was expected to deliver for all parts of the community.
Mr Jones welcomed the Royal Commission's recognition of the needs of children and young people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and LGBTIQ+ people.
"The complexity and challenges of providing mental health care is very individual and so we need to have approaches that are responsive that are consumer-centred and tailored to the different needs experienced within our community," he said.
He appreciated the Royal Commission's recognition of the importance of people with lived experience helping design services.
More Royal Commission coverage: 'No-one should have to do that' - Mental health system's flaws discussed
Other recommendations Mr Jones welcomed included those relating to reporting, "to be able to ensure the services are delivering in accordance with the targeted areas and the tailored approaches."
He said mental health reforms would have to appreciate the challenges of providing services into regional Victoria.
"They include the challenges of attracting a suitably qualified workforce to regional areas," Mr Jones said.
He said a strategy was needed to target the inequalities in delivering mental health services into regional Victoria.
While the government had accepted all of the recommendations, Mr Jones said it remained to be seen to what extent that would translate to change in the system.
Questions were outstanding about how reforms would be funded.
Services hope for support
Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee executive officer Lisa Renato welcomed the final report, but hoped the reforms would leverage some of the work already being done in the community.
"We think there's a way the services we're already providing can be added to as part of the recommendations," Mrs Renato said.
She said Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee answered more than 9000 calls to the 24-hour 13 11 14 hotline.
The government supported the organisation, but Mrs Renato said less than half the funding Lifeline Central Victoria and Mallee received to deliver the 13 11 14 service was from the state.
Mrs Renato believed there was a need to work with existing services, and was wary of "reinventing the wheel."
"We need to be harnessing that knowledge and experience and community consultation and connection we've got already. It's so hard to create that from scratch," she said.
Several of the Royal Commission's recommendations address suicide prevention and response initiatives.
The Royal Commission's final report also highlights the need to provide appropriate and timely services before people are in crisis or in need of acute care - an approach Mrs Renato welcomed.
Specific supports for families, children and young people were also among the Royal Commission's recommendations.
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Headspace Bendigo manager Lindsay Rose welcomed any additional resources for mental health services targeted at children and young people, whether at the headspace level or at a tertiary mental health level.
He hoped the Royal Commission's recommendations would mean resources for the sector could be very targeted.
"We do recognise that people in regional communities can experience poorer mental health outcomes and we welcome the recommendation for increased services in regional areas," Mr Rose said.
The Royal Commission recommended further resourcing for Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations to support Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing, particularly among families, children and youth.
Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative chief executive Raylene Harradine hoped the Royal Commission's recommendations and findings would make services safer and more approachable for Aboriginal people.
She also hoped the recommendations would encourage a more collaborative approach to care, which reduced the need for clients to access the system through multiple entry points and to have to disclose their story to multiple workers.
If you or a loved one need support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
If you are looking for a mental health service, visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au
If life is in danger, phone Triple Zero (000).
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