Opinion — 08 October 2014

I am pleased to say that 2014 has been a year of major advances in the way mental health services are being delivered across Queensland.

Huge changes, such as the review of the old Mental Health Act and establishment of the Queensland Mental Health Commission (QHMC), are paving the way for major, long-term reforms.

The new Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, her board and officers are responsible for driving reform to improve mental health and address the impact of substance abuse in Queensland communities.SpringborgLawrence

Over the past 12 months, the QMHC has commissioned several reviews, including one that focusses on issues in supporting social housing tenure for individuals with complex needs, such as mental health and substance misuse.

The QMHC has also commissioned an external evaluation of the Ed-LinQ program to inform current and future initiatives relating to early intervention in child and youth mental health problems, as well as an overview of Queensland legislative instruments that impact on people living with mental illness or substance misuse, their carers and families.

These kind of reviews are crucial to arming us with the knowledge and understanding to be able to ‘Make a Move Towards Better Mental Health’ – also the theme of this year’s Mental Health Week.

Mental Health Week is an ideal time to reflect on how we have moved on from the past towards a better mental health future.

The Week gives me an opportunity to discuss Queensland’s achievements and to recognise the values and outcomes that we strive for.

Australia’s history of national mental health care left much to be desired, with a litany of poor report cards on the treatment and experiences of people with mental illness. Past experiences provided no doubt that widespread sector reform was needed.

The 1993 seminal report, commonly referred to as the ‘Burdekin report’ was instrumental in exposing the sorry state of human rights for people with mental illness in Australia. The report reminded us that people affected by mental illness can be among our most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community, and of our obligations to provide dignified and appropriate access to adequate support.

Today, the tide has clearly turned regarding the quality of services and supports for mental illness available in Queensland. Queensland has advanced beyond the untenable conditions described 30 years ago in the Burdekin report by continuing the deinstitutionalisation process.

We want to focus the system on treating the acute stage of people’s illness and then encourage the person’s rehabilitation and recovery. Research shows that wherever possible, treatment should be provided in the community rather than in a hospital to get the best patient outcomes.

The Queensland Government is doing this by transferring care from institution-type settings to more contemporary community models of care, including Community Care Units (CCUs). CCUs are community-based, residential facilities that provide 24 hour mental health care, peer support and rehabilitation. This service model enables people to live closer to home with access to support from families, friends and carers and to minimise possible disruption to educational, vocational, social and community networks.

We have invested $130.35 million to progress 16 capital works projects to deliver 259 new or upgraded beds for acute and extended stay treatment. Combined with Commonwealth capital funding for an additional 99 beds, we will deliver eight new CCUs across the state with completion expected by mid-2015.

It is important that we convey a strong public message regarding the improved quality of our Queensland integrated mental health supports that enable prevention and early intervention strategies to encourage people to seek assistance early.

I welcome events such as Mental Health Week which provide an invaluable forum for destigmatising and demystifying mental illness. The government can do this by providing support through addressing mental health awareness and stigma. To that end, the Queensland Government is undertaking several projects that relate to promotion and awareness including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and well-being, suicide prevention and workplace mental health.

As well as recognising the many ways we are aiming to ‘Make a Move Towards Better Mental Health’, I believe Mental Health Week is an important time to acknowledge the great efforts by everyday Queenslanders in providing recognition, understanding and support for people with mental illness.

Thanks to them, Queensland Health is well placed to continue to strive towards delivering respectful, inclusive and recovery-oriented assistance through our dedicated staff and helpers within health services and the broader communities.

The Hon Lawrence Springborg MP

Queensland Minister for Health




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