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Australia Mental health commission report delayed

19:16  03 february  2021
19:16  03 february  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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Victorians will have to wait longer to hear a royal commission's final assessment of the state's "broken" mental health system.

a bedroom with a bed and a mirror: Hospital funding is expected to be mentioned in an again-delayed Victorian mental health report. © James Ross/AAP PHOTOS Hospital funding is expected to be mentioned in an again-delayed Victorian mental health report.

The report was due to have been made public on Thursday, but an overnight COVID-19 diagnosis sent Victoria into defence mode, and Premier Daniel Andrews said the time wasn't right.

"It is deserving of our absolute full attention, our undivided attention. And that's why it will not be tabled," Mr Andrews said of the mental health final report, at a press conference overnight.

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"We will, instead, defer that and, when it's safe to do so - hopefully in just a few days' time, maybe next week - we will have that out to the public and we'll be able to speak to our response to that and hear from the royal commissioners themselves.

"That is far too important an issue to not have our complete and undivided attention."

Mr Andrews called the inquiry - an Australian first - following the 2018 state election.

At the time, he described the state's mental health system as not fit for purpose and committed to implementing all the commission's recommendations.

The royal commission, chaired by Penny Armytage, has since held public hearings and received submissions from hundreds of Victorians, including experts and those with lived experience of mental illness, their families, friends and carers.

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The inquiry was forced to cancel its second and final round of public hearings in late April due to the coronavirus pandemic, and had already delayed the publication of its final report by three months.

In November 2019, the commission released a 680-page interim report which described the current system as "broken" and made nine recommendations for change.

The report said an estimated 105,000 Victorians with severe mental illness are not receiving specialist care, while the cost of poor mental health to the state is about $14.2 billion a year.

"Once admired as the most progressive in our nation, the state's mental health system has catastrophically failed to live up to expectations," the four commissioners wrote in the report's foreword.

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They recommended a "substantial increase" in funding is needed to turn things around, suggesting a new revenue mechanism - a levy or a tax - and a dedicated capital investment fund.

The new revenue stream would avoid the sector having to regularly argue the case for adequate funding and prevent funds being diverted from other kinds of services.

Recommendations included providing additional hospital beds, boosting the mental health workforce, increasing supports for people who have attempted to take their own life and creating a dedicated Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre.

The state's 2020/21 budget committed $868.8 million to mental health, including $492 million for 120 mental health beds at hospitals across Melbourne and Geelong.

Mr Andrews overnight confirmed that a quarantine hotel worker diagnosed with COVID-19 had visited numerous public venues, prompting a return to mandatory face masks and limits on household gatherings.

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