More Mental Health needed in Gippsland

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:00): (1864) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Mental Health, the Honourable James Merlino in the other place, and it relates to the lack of inpatient mental health services for young people in Gippsland. The action I seek is for the minister to commit to a youth inpatient mental health facility in Gippsland and invest in a significant increase to mental health professionals so that adequate staff can be staffed in this new facility and also in our current services.

One of the tragic costs of the Andrews government’s handling of the pandemic is a mental health crisis, and it is exacerbating a system that has already been stretched to beyond breaking point. A Moe mother, Andrea McLennan, contacted me to share her frustrations about the lack of mental health triage, intervention and treatment available to young people in our region. Ms McLennan was left a few weeks ago with a very difficult choice. Her son required urgent intervention and psychological care, and because Gippsland only has two mental health youth beds, the McLennan family was told that there were no mental health beds available at the time in the valley and was forced to then decide whether to send their child into Melbourne or into an adult facility and an adult bed, which is pretty challenging at best, locally. There is need for additional health professionals, and this system has been broken for a while. Our youth need a bright future and a good pathway to mental health.

The ABS has reported that for the ages of between 15 and 24 in Victoria in 2020 the leading cause of death was intentional self-harm. We have got a Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report from 2019 that stipulated the need for more mental health beds for youth. The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System made a raft of recommendations. This is not new. The royal commission told us that Victoria’s mental health system was dysfunctional, overwhelmed and could not keep up with the number of people seeking treatment. There is a quote that I will read into Hansard. There is a strong case for investment in and attention to the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

Delivering help for young people suffering these issues has to be a priority and cannot be delayed any longer. Labor has been in government for 19 out of 23 years. If you need to know who is responsible, look no further. Funding for the immediate delivery of youth services in Central Gippsland, in the Latrobe Valley, to cover off on the whole of Gippsland is absolutely vital, and I call on the minister to include it in the budget. I thank the people who work in this very challenging service area.