July 2008

Newsletter No. 16

“Because Mental Health Matters” Consultation Forum at Flemington IACAPAP Congress in Istanbul Collingwood Rotary Club Meeting with Mental Health Branch FAPM

Because Mental Health Matters”
The most important topic for this newsletter is the Discussion Paper entitled “Because Mental Health Matters” It can be read on the Department of Human Services website or downloaded as a pdf document of 136 pages. Public responses are due by 31st July 2008 and MHYFVic will certainly be making a submission.
It is important because it will shape the development of mental health services in Victoria for the next decade. This is the first time that the public has been asked to contribute to the shaping of the Government’s policy on mental health services.
MHYFVic is delighted with the presentation of the Discussion Paper because it looks beyond the past preoccupation with services for persons with serious mental illness to genuinely look at mental health in its broadest meaning. The ideas of promoting wellbeing and resilience, promoting mental health and preventing the onset or worsening of mental illness feature just as strongly as ensuring quality of service for those who have already become ill.
The paper has seven Focus Areas. These are : Prevention, Early Intervention, Access, Specialist Care, Complex Clients, Workforce, and Partnerships (with other agencies in delivering community-based care). Each area is approached by commentary on “Where we have come from”, “Where are we now”, and “Where do we want to be”. The paper invites responses on unresolved issues. MHYFVic Committee has been working on a corporate response to the paper. If any members wish to have comments included in our response we will need to hear from you by 23rd July.

Consultation Forum at Flemington
MHYFVic was one of the community groups invited to attend a consultation forum hosted by the Department of Human Services at Flemington Racecourse on 8th July to give direct feedback on “Because Mental Health Matters”.
Gill Callister, the Executive Director of the Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol Services Branch of DHS, introduced the process. She left the audience in no doubt that this was a once-in-a- decade opportunity to set the policy direction for the Department. The specific appointment of a Minister responsible for Mental Health issues was supported by a ‘whole-of- Government’ approach to this policy. This means that housing, employment, education and other health-related matters are all open to engagement in the process. It is hard to imagine a better opportunity.

IACAPAP Congress in Istanbul
Two MHYFVic Committee members who had presented successful symposia at the Melbourne Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions in October 2006 were specifically invited to contribute similar symposia at the recent IACAPAP Congress in Istanbul, Turkey.
Paul Tribe gave a presentation on the experiences of young clients of the mental health system, and what their views could contribute to the improvement of service delivery. Suzanne Robson gave a presentation on the experiences of a carer parent, and her contribution was supplemented by other contributions and a paper by Suzie Dean on the role
of consumer feedback in service quality improvement.
It is clear that Australian mental health services are seen as world leaders in consumer and carer participation in service delivery systems, and our contribution to IACAPAP conferences has marked a permanent change in their politics. Youth and Consumer participation now have an ongoing place in future conferences.
We are hopeful that specific reports will be contributed to the next Newsletter by Paul and Suzanne.

Collingwood Rotary Club
Your President, along with Paul Tribe, Suzie Dean and Suzanne Robson, attended two meetings of the Collingwood Rotary Club on 26th June and 3rd July to talk about the work of MHYFVic and the specific contributions of our members to the Istanbul IACAPAP Congress. We are most grateful to Collingwood Rotary Club for their extraordinary generosity in sponsoring the overseas travel of Paul and Suzanne, without which they are unlikely to have been able to afford to go. Their interest and enthusiasm for the ideas of consumer and carer participation in mental health service improvement was very encouraging and there was a strong feeling that the money had been well spent.

Meeting with Mental Health Branch
Representatives of MHYFVic met with senior officers of the Mental Health Branch on 16th May at DHS Head Office. Topics discussed included the importance of properly funding the participation of Consumer and carer consultants in CAMHS, the program for children in families where a parent suffered a mental illness, and the forthcoming strategic directions paper (which has now been launched as “Because Mental Health Matters”). There was a very rewarding discussion, with a commitment to continuing exchange of information and the opportunity to continue dialogue about improving mental health service delivery. It is likely that the next meeting will be in October.

Jennifer Luntz reports on reading the Victorian Government’s document “Families where a parent has a mental illness.”
Overall this document presented a comprehensive strategy on which to implement Statewide programs for families with a parent suffering from a mental illness who has dependent children. It was wonderful to see the acknowledgement (at last) by the Mental Health Branch of the need for … adult mental health service to modify intake and assessment procedures to collect information about the …family constellation …the age…and needs of dependent children at the initial assessment (p.12). For years some of us had been agitating for this important step to occur and were met with stonewalling by adult mental health services who raised the privacy red herring as a way of avoiding their responsibility in this regard. When head office staff were requested to direct services to include questions about children in the assessment process the answer was that this was not a priority!
Other important components of the strategy include the acknowledgement that it is essential to have a way of coordinating the agencies needing to collaborate if the range of services
which these families require are to be delivered on a timely and appropriately The strategy includes coordination arrangements both at the Statewide and regional level. It also stresses the important roles to be played by Disability Support and Primary Care Teams. There is also acknowledgement that even with the best will in the world, without extensive professional training and education of all players in the System of Care, the outcomes will be less than satisfactory.
The one weakness in the strategy is the lack of clarification of a role for CAMHS in the System of Care. Without such clarity CAMHS will continue to be involved peripherally. This is a pity because CAMHS clinicians have special skills which could be used to enhance the quality of the service being delivered.
Allan Mawdsley reported that a Conference in the 1970s had specified the simple goal of a family genogram being recorded in the casefile of every adult mental health client, but that at the time of his retirement 30 years later only about 40% of files complied. It is hard to imagine a satisfactory FAPMI response if the existence of children is not known. The question was asked, “What role is MHB taking to ensure that services improve their compliance?”

Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting of MHYFVic will be held on Wednesday 22nd October this year. Please put the date in your calendars.
The speaker will be Dr Sophie Havighurst. Details of the time, place and topic will be given in our next Newsletter.


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