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Chair of the royal commission, Penny Armytage. Source: Glenn Daniels.
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  • A damning final report from a royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system has found that demand for services now exceeds the state’s capacity
  • Among 65 recommendations, the report suggests the phasing out of seclusion and restraints treatments over the next decade
  • In order to address demand, the royal commission has recommended up to 60 community-based adult mental health services be established across Victoria
  • There should also be 13 specific services catering to young people, which can be used up to the age of 26 and will feature 24-hour care and phone services
  • Around one in five Victorians experience mental health issues, and roughly three per cent of the population have a “severe” mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

A damning final report from a royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system has found that demand for services now exceeds the state’s capacity.

The inquiry, which received more than 12,500 submissions from individuals and organisations over a two-year period, discovered that the system was operating in crisis mode, has “catastrophically failed to live up to expectations” and must be rebuilt.

“The contributions we received left us in no doubt that the system had indeed failed, and had been failing for decades,” said the royal commission’s chair, Penny Armytage.

Among 65 recommendations, the report suggests the phasing out of seclusion and restraints treatments over the next decade as well as making compulsory treatments a last resort.

It said the system was “over-reliant” on medication and that its shortcomings had been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s bushfires.

In order to address demand, the royal commission has recommended up to 60 community-based adult mental health services be established across Victoria, with another 22 high-level treatment services delivered in partnership with local hospitals.

There should also be 13 specific services catering to young people, which can be used up to the age of 26 and will feature 24-hour care and phone services.

On top of that, triple-0 calls regarding mental health crises should be directed to ambulance officers instead of police in an effort to provide a greater level of emergency care.

The report said Victoria should be divided into eight regions, each with at least one top-level emergency department equipped to handle mental health and addiction emergencies.

“The present system is not designed or equipped to support the diverse needs of people living with mental illness of psychological distress, families, cares and supporters, let alone to cope with unforeseen pressures that may arise,” the report said.

Each year, around one in five Victorians experience mental health issues, and roughly three per cent of the population — approximately 200,000 people — have a “severe” mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

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