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Been there, done that: Mental Health inquiry to target 'lived experience'

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A Government inquiry into the State’s mental health system will put people with lived experience at the forefront of its deliberations.

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The Mental Health Select Committee’s inquiry into improving mental health outcomes for Queenslanders kicks off on Thursday.

The committee’s first hearing will take evidence  from Queensland Health officials and the State’s Mental Health Commissioner, Ivan Frkovic, about the current situation.

Psychiatrists have previously said that the system is on “the brink of collapse” and that the State has the lowest per capita mental health spending of any State in Australia.

The Committee’s chair, Joe Kelly, Deputy Speaker and Member for Greenslopes, told InQueensland that hearing from mental health consumers, with lived experience, would be a central part of the inquiry.

“We want to put people with lived experience at the forefront of this inquiry,” Mr Kelly said. “We want to make sure we look at this from the perspective of those who have lived experience.”

Mr Kelly said the inquiry would look at all aspects of mental health in the State, from social determinants, prevention, early detection, crisis and acute care.

The committee plans to hold hearings and take witnesses from around the State.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists had, in 2021, called for an urgent review of the state’s mental health system, saying it is in crisis and on the brink of collapse.

RANZCP Queensland branch chair, Professor Brett Emmerson, said that since making that call nothing had changed.

“Mental health units were not coping before Covid,” Prof Emmerson said. The system needs about $750 million per year in funding to put it on par with other states like Victoria.

“Broadly speaking Queensland needs another 500 (mental health) beds. We badly need more mother and baby beds. And currently 250 of the existing beds urgently need refurbishment, they are 20 years-old,” he said.

“We need a 50 per cent increase in the staff for our community mental health services.”

Prof Emmerson said that community mental health services operated largely Monday to Fridays in working hours while many of the patients need follow up on weekends and out of hours and a massive increase is needed to fix that shortfall.

He said the funding of the NGO sector was also “woefully inadequate”. A properly funded NGO sector reduced pressure on the system.

“Queensland has in place most of the building blocks of what is needed for a mental health system, but we just need a lot more of it,” Prof Emmerson said.

The committee, under its terms of reference, is tasked to report on the opportunities to improve mental health outcomes for Queenslanders and to consider the economic and societal impact of mental illness in the State.

Witnesses slated to appear on Thursday are Associate Professor John Allan, the executive director of the Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, Chief Psychiatrist Dr John Reilly and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Deborah Miller. Also testifying will be Liza-Jane McBride, the Chief Allied Health Officer and Sandra Garner, the director of the Mental Health Response Program at Queensland Ambulance.

Sitting on the committee are eight MPs, four appointed by the Government and four appointed by the Opposition.

Written submissions will close on February 4 and the committee is due to release its final report on May 31.

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