Victorians will have to wait months to see how the state government will fix its utterly broken mental health system, following a damning royal commission.
Mental health royal commission chair Penny Armytage says the system operates largely in crisis mode, failing the people it's designed to help, and needs a complete rebuild.
She delivered 65 recommendations to parliament on Tuesday, including bringing in a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act, creating a new mental health authority and chief officer for mental health to ensure changes are implemented.
The commission doesn't put a dollar figure on the changes but has previously called for a new levy or tax to help pay for reform.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the government's funding response would be detailed in the state budget in May.
He indicated the proposed levy was not an immediate priority, and said he did not want to do anything to make the economic recovery from COVID-19 more difficult.
"This is not business as usual. It requires an extraordinary effort, and not for one budget or one year, not for one government either," he told reporters.
Ms Armytage found the mental health system had "catastrophically failed to live up to expectations and is woefully unprepared for current and future challenges".
"Despite the goodwill and hard work of many people, Victoria's mental health system has deteriorated for a multitude of reasons and over the course of many years," the final report says.
"We heard from people and their families, at times in harrowing detail, about the impacts of being turned away from services at their darkest hour and the sometimes tragic consequences of this."
People experience enormous frustration and distress when trying to find the help they need, while a lack of resources mean many are turned away unless in absolute crisis.
There's an over-reliance on the use of hospitals, crisis services and medication, with the latter relied on as the main and sometimes only treatment.
Recommendations include repealing the current Mental Health Act and replacing it with a new one no later than mid-2022.
Also under the changes, a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission would be established, including at least one commissioner who has lived with mental illness.
A new role as chief officer for mental health would also help oversee the overhaul of the system.
Regional services would be boosted, including with between 50 and 60 new services for adults and the creation of eight regional bodies to oversee services across different states.
The report also calls on the government to provide 2000 additional houses for people living with mental illness as part of its existing housing bill, alongside 500 extra supported accommodation places for young people.
It says the use of restraints and seclusion and restraints should be reduced, with the aim of eliminating the practices within 10 years, and targets set to reduce reliance on compulsory treatment.
Each year, one-in-five Victorians will experience mental illness, and nearly half the state's population will experience it during their lifetime.
About three per of the state's population, or more than 200,000 people, are estimated to meet the criteria for severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
In 2019/20, 95,400 people who needed specialist mental health services were unable to access them, via either the public or private system.
Last year, Victoria recorded 698 deaths by suicide.
Mr Andrews said the government recognised the profound failures of the current system and was committed to implementing all of the commission's recommendations.
"Today we have a once in a generation opportunity, an opportunity to reach across the divide and set right those many wrongs, to rebuild our mental health system from the ground up," he said.
The state's 2020/21 budget committed $868.8 million to mental health, including $492 million for 120 mental health beds at hospitals across Melbourne and Geelong.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said he was embarrassed so many Victorians had been let down.
He called on the government to act quickly to implement the changes, but refused to back a levy.
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Australian Associated Press
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