Page 602 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 11 February 2009

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in mental health services. This is not to say that improvements were not already happening. The ACT government has developed the ACT mental health strategy and action plan for 2003 to 2008 and the ACT mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention plan for 2004 to 2008. These plans demonstrated positive steps forward and showed a clear commitment to mental health policy reform.

ACT government achievements from this period include moving the ACT from the state or territory with the second lowest per capita spending on mental health services to the second highest, funding for the establishment of the mental health community coalition, a review of the Mental Health Act in the light of the Human Rights Act, and the allocation of capital works funding for a new adult inpatient facility.

The point of this motion, however, is that the ACT government is falling behind other jurisdictions in terms of overall mental health system reform. Around three years ago, as I understand it, the ACT government contracted KPMG to conduct consultation with the community on ideas for the 2008 to 2013 mental health services plan. Community organisations were engaged and excited about the way forward for mental health policy reform. They put forward a number of ideas, including goals and targets.

It was with disappointment then that they read the ACT government’s draft mental health services plan, which was issued in September 2008 and which claims to provide a vision for 2020. Many people have said that after reading the plan they remain unsure of what the vision is. This draft plan falls short in identifying the manner in which the ACT could better utilise its limited resources while providing improved mental health services, outcomes and innovation.

Take, for instance, the issue of acute care bed numbers. The plan seems to assume that acute inpatient beds will be used at the same rate as they are now. What we should be aiming for, if we are committed to reform, would be a diminished usage of acute inpatient care and a greater usage of supported accommodation places. The draft plan seems to assume that the manner in which we treat mental illness in 2020 should be the same as how we treat it now. For a government that five years ago was so committed to improving the delivery of mental health services, we need to ask where has the vision gone?

This document is particularly vague in commitment. Nowhere in the document is there any stated aim for reducing the burden of mental illness or a prescription of goals and targets for 2013. All too often the document says that something should be addressed or should be provided, but it does not actually say what should be done.

I recognise that the document is a draft, but it is a poor and passive draft. While I note that the government intends to develop an implementation plan once this document is finalised, it is difficult to see how such a plan could be cascaded from the existing draft plan. There are very good mental health programs and services operating in the ACT, but the plan does not identify and build on them. Best practice models are not discussed or even suggested. A good draft plan would do this.

While there is some evidence of more advanced thinking in this draft plan, that thinking is somewhat muddled. The ACT government has included references to

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