After just three-months in the job, Queensland’s first Mental Health Commissioner says the state’s mental health sector needs to be decentralised to give local people more say in key decisions and access to services.
Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, who was tasked with overhauling Queensland’s mental health system, says decisions need to be made at a local level to improve the state of mental health in Queensland.
“If we don’t restructure the system, there won’t be [the resources to deal with the demand on the system in Queensland],” she says, “but everybody is of the view that if we take the resources we’ve got, get them to work together and differently, there may well be.
“[We need to] make it easier for agencies to work together instead of in competition with each other.
“We’ve got to look at people who’ve been through the system and their families know about the system, what the schools and housing can do to help people stay at home. That is the intent of this Commission.”
After holding a number of stakeholder forums in Cairns, Rockhampton, Townsville and Toowoomba, Dr van Schoubroeck says she was surprised to see how fragmented Queensland’s mental health system is.
“The voices of the consumers and carers are not quite a part of the system; the non-government sector is not as big [in Queensland].
She says the Queensland body has their work cut out in shifting the focus in how services are delivered across the state.
“If you can put the decision making and the planning at the local level, you’ll get solutions that fill the local requirement.
“People in communities don’t know what services are there already, so we have to change the way in which decisions are made about where services are funded and where they go, from a central decision making level to a local level,” Ms van Schoubroeck says.
Dr van Schoubroeck, who helped establish the Western Australia Mental Health Commission, was appointed to Queensland’s newly established Mental Health Commission by the Newman Government in June.
She says staff working within the mental health sector are all stretched and all governments have work to do to address mental health in Australia.
“I think all governments have realised that they’ve got to put systems in place so that if people get ill, they get treated as close to home and if they do end up in hospital once they leave they don’t just cycle back.
Dr van Schoubroeck says the focus needs to shift from beds and treating sickness to getting people back into the community.
“It takes a while to change systems,” she says, but after success with the Mental Health Commission in Western Australia, believes Queensland also has the potential to “increase the capacity for people who’ve been ill and their families to have a say in setting the policies in some of the levers that change the system.”
This article first appeared on ABC Brisbane on 1 October, 2013.