The Victorian mental health royal commission final report has confirmed what many have known for years, that the mental health system has been chronically underfunded.
The report is an indictment on the many ways we have failed Victorians at risk of or suffering mental illness and will hopefully be a wake-up call to our state government.
The Greens welcome the report and are particularly pleased with the commission’s recommendations around housing.
These and the other recommendations will need to be fully funded.
The commission has recommended that people with mental illness are prioritised for access to public housing, and that an extra 500 new medium-term homes are created for young people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for health, Dr Tim Read, said it was good to see housing acknowledged as a barrier to many experiencing mental health issues.
However, Dr Read added that while those 500 dwellings and the 2,000 planned for people living with mental illness are a start, they barely touch the sides of the 100,000 people on the public housing waiting list. Building more public housing would prevent many crises from happening in the first place.
Housing stress and insecurity can both create and exacerbate mental illness and public housing is urgently needed to alleviate that risk.
The Greens are also pleased to see the commission acknowledge the importance of looking after people in prison and the need to provide them with ongoing intensive treatment, care and support after they are transferred from prisons into public health services.
The Greens remain concerned that too many mentally ill people are imprisoned by Victoria’s harsh bail law, often for minor offences, when they should be getting housing and treatment.
As stated by Victorian Greens spokesperson for health, Dr Tim Read:
“The government has starved the system and checked it into a hospital to find out what’s wrong. The diagnosis is chronic underfunding.
“Properly funding the Royal Commission’s recommendations will go some way towards supporting Victorians that have for too long been ignored or let down.
“The Greens are pleased to see recommendations around housing in the report. Too many people with mental illness don’t have secure housing, so the 500 new homes will be a good start.
“But with a waitlist of 100,000 people in need of public housing we need to build a lot more.
“We also need to stop imprisoning the mentally ill under our overly harsh bail law, and provide them with housing and treatment instead.”