Good afternoon and thank you the warm welcome to Queensland!
Our Queensland Mental Health Commission has now been in operation for a full month and it is timely to update you on our work so far, our upcoming plans to meet more people across the state and how you can be involved and have a say. It is also a good opportunity to tell you what I have been hearing so far and some initial ideas about our future direction.
On 10 July 2013, the Minister for Health, the Honourable Lawrence Springborg MP, formally announced the establishment of the Queensland Mental Health Commission at an event hosted by the Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland (MIFQ).
I would like to thank their CEO Tony Stevenson, MaryAnne Morgan, MIFQ board members, clients and staff for their hospitality and for the use of their beautifully renovated building. I look forward to getting to know them better.
Shaping a plan for Queensland
Initial consultation with stakeholders
Over the last month, I have started meeting with representatives from community organisations including the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health, the Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies, Queensland Voice, clinicians and senior officers in other government and non-government agencies.
I have also had an opportunity to meet with some of the many Queenslanders affected by mental illness or substance misuse, as well as their families and carers. I am thankful to all for their time and sharing with me the challenges and opportunities they identified. I have yet to meet with representatives of general practice and the private sector but certainly intend to do so.
I have also reviewed the reports of previous consultations that considered, in part, what reform was needed to improve the mental health and drug and alcohol systems across the state. While the form of the commission changed during the previous consultation period, the most important issue now is what needs to change for people who need services and what the future needs to look like for them. The Queensland Plan for Mental Health 2007-2017 rovides a starting point.
I fully support recommendations that the commission must focus on system improvement and avoid creating additional layers of bureaucracy and I am beginning to form some ideas about the issues that need to be included in our strategic plan due at the end of June 2014.
Aligning efforts with other commissions
I am also keen to support and align effort with the other mental health commissions in Australia and internationally. At the inaugural meeting of commissions held in Sydney earlier this year, the Sydney Declaration was developed, outlining common priorities. Given their relevance in Queensland, I believe these areas can be incorporated in our strategic plan, including:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health
- seclusion and restraint
- work and mental health
- knowledge exchange, and
- international benchmarking.
Moving forward – principles and expectations
Based on what I have read and heard, some potential principles to guide all reform include:
- respect and dignity in our interactions with one another
- promoting choice as well as understanding and accepting risk
- recognising and protecting rights and adopting a least restrictive approach
- implementing evidenced based practice and innovation
- valuing culture, difference and diversity
- balancing investment according to need (for example, geographic and life stages)
- empowering individuals and communities to make informed, local level decisions
- improving quality of life and supporting individuals affected by mental illness or substance use to live purposeful lives.
Professor Alan Rosen, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, has suggested that people expect mental health commissions to make changes in the following areas:
- better engagement of consumers, families and carers—this is not simply listening to people but ensuring their involvement in all levels of system design and delivery
- better resourcing—while additional resources are also welcome, better resourcing also requires effective use of existing resources from all levels of government, and harnessing those resources which exist in the community and in the private sector. Additional resources directed at prevention rograms and for services for children and young people, can lead to savings in the longer term.
- better services—people want services closer to home that focus on what makes better lives for people with mental illness and problems with substance use. Better services are customised to meet the needs of particular population groups and many can be delivered more effectively by community organisations. Services need to take particular account of people with complex problems. Integrating services across governments and industry (such as housing, schools, police, health and employment) leads to better outcomes. And of course, good services require a motivated and skilled workforce.
- better transparency and accountability—people want to know which services are doing a good job and how well Queensland’s system compares with others. In mental health, there is a particular need for transparency to protect the rights of people who are treated involuntarily. An easily understood quality assurance system is essential to transparency and accountability.
Within each of these areas for change, I envisage national, statewide and regional actions. One of our challenges, and I believe a great opportunity or Queensland, is to ensure we develop a strategic plan that meets common needs and addresses shared concerns across both mental health and substance use I do, however, recognise that there will also be a need to consider targeted and specialist responses to each of these areas independently.
The Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council
The recruitment of the advisory council is a high priority and you can expect advertisements for membership in the coming month. The selection process will be transparent and members will be selected by their personal capacity not as representatives of organisations.
Mental health legislative review
I have provided some initial advice on issues that might be considered in the Queensland Government’s review of the Mental Health Act 2002. It is my intention to convene a forum for interested people after the Government releases its consultation paper later this year to seek additional views on specific issues. Further details will be available on our website later.
Future consultation across Queensland
While most of our meetings to date have been at our new premises at 400 George St in the city, I am currently scheduling meetings out in the community, including country areas in September and October. I would like to hear from you:
- How will I know if the commission is doing a good job?
- What should be in our strategic plan to improve mental health and minimise the harm from substance use in Queensland?
For instance, are the potential principles and areas for change outlined above on track and, if so, what specific actions should we commit to if we are to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and substance use, their families and carers.
I am keen to hear from individuals living with mental illness or who use substances, as well as families, carers and service providers - what you think may be some of the solutions, what would have made your experience better or what would have helped you deliver a better service.
As well as getting out and about we are keen to hear in a range of other ways. Please visit our website and if you have not already done so, sign up to receive email updates. We will use the website to conduct online surveys as well as to promote our regional visits, and keep you up to date on the plan and other work.
Finally, my thanks to the staff now in the commission and their leaders, Liz Powell and Sandy Gillies, who have made it possible for us to be up and running from 1 July.
Once again, thank you for the warm welcome and I look forward to future meetings.