Response to the Mental Health Governance Review, Lived Experience Perspective's




A review into Mental Health Governance in SA was recently conducted. Five recommendations regarding reform oversight and responsibility roles across mental health services were made. In their interim response the Government stated that they are committed to making changes to improve Mental Health Services and accepts the recommendations contained in the report. 

Recommendations in the review related to: the functions of the Chief Psychiatrist and Director of Mental Health Strategy as well as the structure of their office / units; the most effective structures for oversight of mental health services within the Department of Health and Wellbeing and across the Local Health Network’s; the best way to integrate and coordinate administrative functions of a number of Statutory positions; and the role of the Mental Health Commission going forward.



Summary of LELAN’s Response and Recommendations:


> We appreciated the acknowledgement by the Deputy CEO of SA Health, Mr Don Frater, that mental health services and ‘the Department has failed people’ and that the inclusion of people with lived experience is an area that requires leadership and must be improved. 

Due to the short consultation timeframe, the very limited notice of a single metropolitan-based community forum, brevity of the survey questions and the fact that the survey was conducted through survey monkey rather than the yourSAy site most of the people that LELAN has spoken with have questioned the authenticity of the consultation. They are disheartened by the approach, in disbelief regarding media reporting about the Commission being ‘abolished’ (Advertiser article, March 23rd), question how people with lived experience will ever be listened to by the system and hold real concerns for the future of mental health services in South Australia.

> LELAN invite’s further exploration of alternative and better matched options for the positions that are created within the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, particularly the proposed role of a Deputy Chief Psychiatrist. Expanding clinical leadership roles beyond Psychiatrists aligns with the multi-disciplinary nature of teams who are at the frontline of service provision and is preferred by people with lived experience.

LELAN notes that development opportunities and career pathways for people with lived experience as well as their capacity to lead reform in project, policy and oversight roles are extremely limited. Ideally the ‘proposed long-term approach’ (Review, p.47) would include the appointment of a person with lived experience, and appropriate other capabilities, at Director level and overseeing the Consumer Consultant and Carer Consultant positions.


> LELAN invites particular consideration be given to how each entity will themselves engage and partner with people with lived experience of mental health issues. Given the requirement for this to occur and the propensity for it to be an afterthought, tokenistic or on the terms of the government department or organisation rather than about authentic involvement this is something that must be clearly articulated, embedded and resourced within all governance and operational structures.


> We support strengthened inter-agency protocols for timely, supportive and appropriate resolution of complaints and recommend that pathways, processes, timeframes and expectations – of all parties – associated with complaints are clear to service users, families, organisations and community members.

LELAN supports a Mental Health Commission in South Australia and believe now is the time to clearly define the scope, function, outcomes, how they should involve people with lived experience and the legislative status of the Commission. We support a strengthened Commission with statutory powers and protected independence which aligns with models in other jurisdictions.

If the Commission remains, LELAN recommends that the role of lived experience within the Commission is strengthened and mandated. As well as having at least one designated lived experience position we support the NSW and National Mental Health Commission model of appointing Deputy Commissioners, a number of which must have lived experience.

> If the decision to merge the Commission into Wellbeing SA remains supported LELAN recommends that visible protections are put in place to ensure an appropriate level of activity and resourcing within the agency remains focused on mental health. 


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