Opinion — 30 October 2013
From small beginnings come great things

Queensland’s first ever Mental Health Commission started work on 1 July 2013. But how is a government body going to make a real difference in mental health and drug and alcohol reform?

Agencies called Mental Health Commissions are not new. They have been established by the federal, Western Australian and New South Wales governments over the last three years. This followed trends in a number of countries including New Zealand, Canada and Ireland.

Commissioner_V2Despite their differences, these Commissions address a common problem — investment in mental health and drug and alcohol services continues to grow without noticeably better outcomes for the community.

Too many people need expensive acute care because there are not enough early intervention services, or enough information and support for individuals and families to find help or to help themselves. This in turn means taxpayers are not getting value for money.

But it’s the strong desire to do better across the whole community, in government and among service providers that is, I believe, the most powerful lever of all when it comes to delivering better outcomes in mental health.

And right across Queensland there is a strong desire to do better. I saw this first hand during forums I hosted with consumers, carers and family members, as well as practitioners and people working in areas such as housing and justice.

What I’ve heard so far is that there are many aspects of the system that don’t need to be changed. And I’m a firm believer in nurturing what’s working well. But there is consensus that we need a stronger focus on outcomes that improve the overall mental health and wellbeing of the community.

My role, and the role of the Commission, is to bring together the talent and wisdom that exists across the length and breadth of the State. This includes the wisdom that comes from both life and professional expertise.

I want to focus on a few key ideas that will result in long term change and to set up the structures and processes that will implement this change and improve the overall mental health and wellbeing of the community.

The Commission’s work will be done when we can no longer add value.

I will be supported in this by Professor Harvey Whiteford, Chair of the newly formed Queensland Mental Health and Drugs Advisory Council and members of the Advisory Council who will be appointed later this year.

If you would like to contribute to the future of mental health and alcohol and other drug reform in Queensland, I encourage you to participate in an online survey open until the end of November.

With the desire to do better and a firm idea of where we want to be, great things are possible.

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck.

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