5 June 2019

Auditor-General’s report lays bare Victoria’s neglect of youth mental health services

Auditor-General’s report lays bare Victoria’s neglect of youth mental health services

Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, is concerned by the findings of today’s Victorian Auditor-General’s report into public child and youth mental health services.

The audit examined the design of the public child and youth mental health system, whether the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is monitoring the performance of the system, and whether access to services is timely, particularly for vulnerable and complex clients.

The key findings of the audit were:

  • there is no strategic leadership from DHHS to plan, fund and manage child and youth mental health services;
  • the system is fragmented and overstretched;
  • a lack of DHHS oversight prevents identification and response to systemic issues such as long stays;
  • DHHS does not enable service coordination for young people with complex needs; and
  • DHHS does not enable or monitor access for vulnerable population groups.

Orygen’s executive director, Professor Patrick McGorry, said the audit’s findings were of grave concern given mental illness is the number one health issue facing young people worldwide. “As many as one in four Australians aged 12–25 will experience mental illness in any given year,” Professor McGorry said.

“Unfortunately, the findings in the Auditor-General’s report come as no surprise, they are consistent with what young people and their families have been saying to us for years. The report lays bare the extent of neglect and lack of attention provided to the child and youth mental health service system in Victoria, which has left children and young people with a mental health system that doesn’t adequately identify or respond to their specific needs.”

Professor McGorry said the report illustrated that the mental health system is weakest where it needs to be strongest.

“Victoria needs a new stream of mental health care for young people in transition to adulthood that is co-designed with, and for, them, covering the years 12-25 when the peak onset for mental illness occurs.”

“It is time for state services to align with federal reforms and the headspace system. We need to build a seamless and expert system of stepped mental health care for young people and their families. The new system should have soft and flexible boundaries with child psychiatry and adult psychiatry so individual needs and variations can be accommodated.

“Without access to the right care at the right time, young people are at risk of ongoing problems that may affect their engagement with education and employment, and lead to greater contact with human services and the justice system.”

Professor McGorry said the Auditor-General’s report was timely as Victoria’s Royal Commission gets underway. “I hope the serious issues raised by the report will be addressed by the Royal Commission which can provide the mandate and catalyst for the seismic reforms needed to fix the system and improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for young Victorians.”

You can access the Auditor-General’s full report here: http://bit.ly/2wAbdxY