Housing and health-based responses: next steps for the Royal Commission into Mental Health

December 05, 2019 |

The Federation of Community Legal Centres welcomes the interim report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

The urgent need for an entire system redesign is clear, and the nine recommendations are strong and innovative.

We particularly commend the focus on working closely with people who have lived experience, and the creation of an Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre.

With this interim report, the Commission is outlining urgent reforms and laying the groundwork for its final recommendations next year.  

We urge the Commission to prioritise housing as a crucial piece of the puzzle.

We all need a safe, stable and suitable home.

Without a place to call home, none of us can thrive, focus on health and wellbeing, or feel safe and supported.

Right now, there are almost 45,000 Victorians on the waitlist for social housing.

Mental health is the fastest growing reason for people to access homelessness services, growing at an average rate of 13 per cent per year.

This is a tragedy that the Royal Commission can fix.  

Safe and stable housing is the only way forward for all Victorians who need it – anything else will fall short. 

We must end the criminalisation of people experiencing mental health issues. 

At least 20 per cent of the people who access community legal centres in our state experience mental health issues, and we believe that number is underreported.

Offences that unfairly target people experiencing mental health problems must be repealed.

Mental health experts must be the first responders in a crisis, instead of police.

And we must urgently move toward a health-based response.

People experiencing mental health issues – which are often connected with other challenges – should not have to fear criminalisation.

We must provide care, not punishment.

Victoria is lucky to have a government that wants what is best for its communities.

The strength of our state is grounded in the government’s willingness to listen to, and work with and for communities to create change.

We trust that the Commission will hand down recommendations that ensure that all Victorians have the chance to heal and grow.

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