Victorians will pay a new tax or levy to help shoulder the cost of overhauling the state's "catastrophically" failing mental health system.
Australia's first royal commission into the sector has released a 680-page interim report, laying bare the shortcomings of Victoria's system and making nine recommendations for change.
Too many people are having difficulty getting help when they need it, with an estimated 105 000 Victorians with severe mental illness not receiving specialist care. Many of the people who do access support find they are not treated with respect or dignity, the inquiry has also found.
“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 forward.
“Past ambitions have not been realised or upheld, and the system is woefully unprepared for current and future mental health challenges.”
Royal commission chair Penny Armytage said the system's failings followed long-standing under-investment in mental health.
“It has not received the level of investment proportionate to the impact of this illness in our community,” she told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
The inquiry has recommended the Victorian Government designs and implements a new approach to mental health investment to turn things around. It believes that should include a new revenue mechanism — meaning a levy or a tax — and a dedicated capital investment fund for the system.
“For these reforms to be implemented, we do not believe that the standard budget processes will prioritise mental health in the way that it needs to,” Ms Armytage said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews promised to implement all nine recommendations, including the new levy or tax.
“This system is broken,” he told parliament.
"It will not be easy to fix it. It will not be cheap. It will take a long time, but the time has come for us to take mental illness and mental health seriously.
“This government will do that by implementing each and every one of the nine recommendations made today, and each and every one of the recommendations that will come in the final report in October next year.”
The report also calls for funding for 170 additional youth and adult acute mental health beds to help address "critical demand pressures".
Expanding follow-up care and support for people who have tried to take their own lives has also been recommended, as has creating a new Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, where people with lived experience of mental illness and clinicians can drive "exemplary practice" in the sector.
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