Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 October 2018) . . Page.. 4522 ..
well. It is community-based organisations like Lifeline and beyondblue that provide many front-line and early intervention services that ease the pressure on the public health system.
It is community-based organisations like “It’s OK to talk” or “RUOK” that help to raise public awareness of mental health and its associated morbidities. It is community-based organisations like the Mental Health Community Coalition that bring the community together to support not only people suffering from mental illness but also their families and friends. It was the Mental Health Community Coalition who organised the recent very successful, comprehensive and informative mental health expo in Civic.
What of the government’s mental health services? Mr Rattenbury in his media release talked about the office for mental health and wellbeing, which he officially opened in mid-June, but, according to its website, the office does not yet have a coordinator-general. The advertisement for this position was not even placed until Mr Rattenbury unlocked the doors back in June. Why wasn’t the coordinator-general there to turn on the lights when we opened the Office for mental health and wellbeing?
The office’s website talks about a new territory-wide vision and the convoluted processes it will go through to develop it, along with development of the initial work program. The website tells us that the initial work program will be the first cab off the rank in the coordinator-general’s first 100 days, but those 100 days have not started yet. If you do the maths, even if that person were to be appointed this very day, we are not going to see the initial work plan until February 2019. And it is only then that the rest of the work will start. So, at the very best, it will be 2½ years before some of the most vulnerable people in our community will see anything substantive coming out of the office for mental health and wellbeing.
The barriers and the revolving door will continue for these people. That is what it will be like for people like the university student who approached me because they kept getting the run-around through and across an unnavigable system and ended up having to go to a private provider at their own expense, a cost that they could ill-afford.
Mr Rattenbury’s media statement also talks about a whole lot of bureaucratic activity, like developing new models of care. It talks about plans and frameworks, but it does not talk about outcomes. One very encouraging piece of information came from Mr Rattenbury in answer to a question on notice. He told me that, as of 1 July this year, there were 68 full-time equivalent nursing staff employed in the adult mental health unit. This staffing cohort covered all levels, from an assistant director of nursing to new graduates in placement. Mr Rattenbury said that all of these staff have training in mental health through the essential education requirement of ACT Health, including specific training during their orientation to the adult mental health unit. On top of that, all nursing staff in the unit are required to undergo 30 hours of professional development to maintain their registration with AHPRA, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.