Mental Health and Wellbeing Act: report on the engagement process

December 10, 2021

Progress is being made on the Victorian Government’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, which will enshrine recommendations from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System into law and help build the state’s new mental health system. A key recommendation from the Royal Commission was that the Mental Health Act 2014 be replaced with a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act by mid-2022.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health invited feedback on specific policy proposals through Engage Victoria. Overall, 283 written submissions were received through the process, and 28 targeted engagement sessions saw more than 500 Victorians provide further feedback on the proposals. This feedback has been published in a new report entitled The new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act: What we heard.

 

The VHA submission

While we broadly supported many of the elements of the proposed Act set out in the engagement paper, the VHA did have concerns about some missing areas from the Act as it was articulated. We noted that the Act needed to learn from the Royal Commission’s broader lessons as well as insight from those in the system. For instance, it is vital for the new Act to bind both the sector to behave in a particular way but also require decision-makers to manage and fund the system in line with those expectations.

The VHA is pleased to see that the feedback contained in the What we heard report aligns with key areas of our submission to the development of the Act which was based on consultation and discussions with VHA members and partners as part of a broader forum series in collaboration with Mental Health Victoria.

In particular, we note that the report includes:

  • the positive role of clinicians and mental health and wellbeing workers, which aligns with the VHA’s recommendations around positive and enabling language, and the Act needing to specifically mention a requirement to develop an appropriately trained and sufficiently sized mental health workforce, including those providing non-clinical support, to deliver the wider Act’s vision
  • that there is a need for funding, resources and training to support implementation of the new Act, which was the key point of our submission – we called for this to be codified in the Act
  • the Victorian Government commitment to an independent review of compulsory treatment criteria and to aligning mental health laws with other decision-making laws, to promote supported decision making (this aligns with our recommendation of the need for further definition)
  • that the new Act should be clear about what is required for accountability and compliance
  • the recognition of the need to focus on the social determinants of health, integration, and prevention and early intervention.

 

The What we heard report is available on the Engage Victoria website at engage.vic.gov.au/mhwa