THE Victorian opposition is calling for an audit of adult mental health services on the Border.
And it wants a vital patient support role that has been vacant for more than three months to be filled immediately.
Opposition parliamentary secretary for mental health Wade Noonan said he was prompted to act after reading Border Mail reports that Albury Wodonga Health still hadn’t filled its consumer consultant role, after the last consultant resigned in May out of frustration.
AWH began to undertake a review of the role, but no completion date for that has been set — leaving at least 20 people with no access to a consumer consultant.
The role is filled by someone who has lived with a mental illness themselves and can relate to a client as a peer, not a doctor.
It’s considered in the mental health field as crucial, given Victoria’s Mental Health Act is undergoing reform and will have a focus on advocates and peer-supported recovery.
Mr Noonan has written to the Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge requesting an audit of how funding for the service is used, in light of recent figures indicating AWH was one of the poorest performers in regional Victoria on mental health.
Department of Health figures from January to March showed just 39 per cent of patients in the North East had made contact with a mental health service before being admitted to hospital.
Mr Noonan acknowledged the calls from former consumer consultant Bevyn Dempsey for a better recovery model and for peer support be put in place.
AWH chief executive Stuart Spring has committed to replacing the role.
Mr Noonan said the role was vital as mental health was the only sector in which patients can potentially have treatments forced upon them.
“The role is to help provide advice and be a conduit for patients between them and those who administer treatment,” he said.
Mr Noonan said the state opposition supported moves to reform the Mental Health Act, however a bill had yet to be presented to parliament, and would unlikely be seen before the end of the year.
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley would not comment on calls for an audit specifically, but said mental health was an “absolutely huge issue”, and AWH had been going through “a huge process” in merging the services of both side of the Border.
A spokesman for Mary Wooldridge’s office said it would respond to Mr Noonan’s letter in due course, and was aware AWH was working to resolve the issue of filling the vacant role.
He would not comment on the calls for an audit but said the merger was a vital step in providing better co-ordinated services, and the government was also funding a new prevention and recovery care service, that would provide a stepping stone to those exiting mental health services opening next year.