Adjournment – Mental Health Services

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Mental Health. It relates to the release in March 2019 of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) report Access to Mental Health Services. More specifically, it is about the section in that report on workforce strategy, starting on page 35. It would simply be an understatement to say that that section of the report is, as indeed a number of other sections are too, critical of the direction and effectiveness of the actions being pursued by the government through, in particular, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Multiple observations about current failings were made, and multiple priorities for reform were identified. These included the need for targets on the specific types and numbers of workers required in the sector, as well as the lack of integration between mental health workforce strategies and broader service and infrastructure planning. There was also a very clear call for urgent action on addressing the particularly serious staffing challenges that exist in regional and rural areas. Just as worryingly, the report observed in the area of workforce strategy—and indeed this was a common refrain throughout almost the entire document—that well-targeted evaluation measures and mechanisms are also sorely lacking. That the criticism of the state of play is so wideranging is even more concerning when it is borne in mind that DHHS had specifically released a new, 10-year mental health plan in late 2015. That strategy was actually introduced, in part, as a means of trying to decisively address some of these very problems. Yet it appears that, at least at the time the report was written, there had been little to discern in the way of such improvements. I do understand and acknowledge that the government is taking various steps to try to improve mental health services in the state and improve their quality and availability for what is, unfortunately, a significantly growing number of people, including through the current royal commission process. Given all of that background, the action I seek from the minister is for the provision of a statement to me about whether the government, six months on, accepts the findings made on workforce strategy that are detailed in the VAGO report. If the government has indeed accepted those findings, then I would also appreciate from the minister an update on any progress towards implementation of VAGO’s suggested changes. Alternatively, if the government has not accepted the findings, then I would ask if the minister could explain why not.