Olivia lives with the rare Kleefstra Syndrome.

Shutting the door: reduced access to mental health and alcohol and drug treatment services Analysis

Shutting the door: reduced access to mental health and alcohol and drug treatment services

A report released today on the recently implemented arrangements for mental health community support services and alcohol and drug treatment services shows the damage that can be done when community organisations and people facing disadvantage are not genuine partners in reform, says the Victorian  Council of Social Service.

The new arrangements come after a retendering process that resulted in dramatic changes to the funding and delivery of community based mental health and alcohol and drug treatment services.

“Some trusted, long-standing programs lost funding. Large numbers of staff moved organisations, resulting in a loss of expertise and capacity. Local partnerships and relationships were compromised. People accessing services were left stranded without services, or confused about how to get help,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“We know it’s the most vulnerable people who are most at risk when there is system upheaval.”

“Preliminary data shows about one in five people living with mental illness or drug and alcohol issues who were supported under the old system have not transitioned to the new system.”

“The community sector has warned about the potential impacts of these reforms on people experiencing homelessness, migrants and refugees and the Aboriginal community since before they were implemented.”

“The report also highlights concerns about the new arrangements’ lack of focus on early intervention. Waiting until people reach crisis is less effective and more expensive than intervening early, as people’s difficulties are more entrenched and difficult to shift.”

Instead of improving integration, the report warns the new arrangements may have reinforced the siloes between the systems.

“This makes it harder for people to navigate the system and to find the range of supports they need to tackle complex problems. We need a no wrong door approach where those who need help have multiple access points into the service system.”

“We welcome the Victorian government’s commitment to working with service providers to improve access to services and ensure the delivery of high quality support to vulnerable people in the community.”