The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health and suicide prevention continue to be key priorities for the ACT Government. The Government is committed to an integrated approach to mental wellbeing, suicide and self-harm prevention that works with the community as a whole.

Mental health and suicide prevention continue to be key priorities for the ACT Government. The Government is committed to an integrated approach to mental wellbeing, suicide and self-harm prevention that works with the community as a whole.

On 14 June 2018 the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Shane Rattenbury MLA, launched the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The new Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing (the Office) aims to:

  • provide strategic oversight of the delivery of mental health services across the ACT, including how they intersect with other government directorates;

  • ensure our mental health services are person-centric and meet the needs of people;

  • improve access to mental health services by managing the coordination, integration and targeting of services and facilities through a mental health and wellbeing framework; and

  • focus on coordinating services along the entire continuum of mental health (from early intervention to most acute) and work to ensure that people experiencing poor mental health can access the most appropriate services and supports across ACT Government-funded agencies at the right time.

The ACT Government sought genuine and transparent engagement with stakeholders to develop the model for the Office. The model was developed following extensive consultation with the community, mental health consumers and carers, mental health organisations and peak bodies.

The consultancy company Synergia provided the ACT Government with a report recommending a potential model for the Office. Both the report and the Government’s response are now available.

The Government has agreed that the Office will sit within ACT Health. However, the Office will be guaranteed a level of independence by having access to the Minister for Mental Health, and may initiate reports and reviews, or conduct those requested by the Minister.

The Office will build relationships within the ACT Government, other agencies and the ACT community to undertake a coordinated effort to address the social circumstances that influence our mental health. The model for the Office has been approved by Cabinet to allow the Office to focus on issues across the whole of Government and collaborate closely with other agencies, including health services, primary care, housing, employment, community services, justice, police, education, and social inclusion. Over time this will see more of a shift towards a greater focus on the circumstances in which people live their lives and how these impact on mental wellbeing.

The long term goal is for this work to keep more people well for longer and to reduce avoidable use of acute and crisis care services. The Office will lead a process of co-design through a cross-directorate Stewardship Group to develop a new vision for mental health in the ACT.

This new Territory-wide vision will reflect how Canberra wishes to foster the mental health and wellbeing of its people into the 21st century. The vision will be developed with the Stewardship Group and co-designed with stakeholders alongside the development of the initial work plan, which will be the first priority of the Office. The work plan will be developed within 100 days of Coordinator-General commencing.

For further information:

Frequently Asked Questions

What will the Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing do for housing, employment of those with mental illness, youth, my family member?

The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing will provide a coordinated approach to the delivery of mental health services. This includes a joint approach to the development of a work plan which will highlight opportunities to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the Canberra community, by considering many of the factors that contribute to mental health outcomes.

Where in government will the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing sit?

Noting the recent decision to split ACT Health into two Directorates, with separate focuses on policy and the operational service system, we believe it is most appropriate for the Office to sit within the Health Policy Directorate and report directly to the Director-General. This will enable independence from the operational service system, at the same time will enable a strong mandate to work across other ACT Government agencies, akin to the role of the Coordinator-General for Family Safety.

How can the Office be independent and effectively advocate for consumers if the Coordinator-General reports to the Director-General of Health?

The Coordinator-General will report directly to the Director-General of ACT Health, as well as having direct access to the Minister for Mental Health as needed. This arrangement will allow the Director-General to champion the work of the Office and support priority issues, actions and reports to be considered by the Minister for Mental Health and Cabinet. This arrangement is similar to the governance arrangement developed for the Coordinator-General for Family Safety through the Community Services Directorate.

In addition, the Office will still maintain a level of independence and have a mandate to work across all Government agencies. In order to ensure the Office retains a level of independence from the day-to-day running of the operational service system, it will have the authority to conduct reviews and produce reports as the Coordinator-General deems necessary or at the request of the Minister for Mental Health.

When do you anticipate the new Coordinator-General will be on board?

A recruitment process for the position will begin the week commencing 18 June 2018. It is anticipated the Coordinator-General will commence over the coming months, depending on the outcome of the recruitment process.

What is the vision for the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing?

The initial vision for the Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing is that it will lead a process of co-design to develop a new Territory-wide vision for mental health in the ACT. This new vision needs to reflect how Canberra wishes to foster mental health and wellbeing of its people into the 21st century. The vision will be developed with the stewardship group and co-designed with stakeholders alongside the development of the work plan, which will be the first priority of the Office.

Will the Office fund community mental health services?

The Office does not hold the budget for mental health and is not a commissioner of everyday services. The Budget for mental health services and programs will remain with ACT Health. While the Office will not be a fund holder, decisions about new or changing funding for mental health services will be considered by the Office to ensure they are consistent with the broader vision for mental health in the ACT.

The Office will be consulted about Government decisions in relation to all mental health funding, particularly growth funding. This is to ensure that over time, funding aligns and drives the strategy underpinning the work plan, to shift the balance across the continuum of care towards building resilience and earlier intervention.

What is the role of the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing?

That the focus of the Office be on change management and systemic quality improvement, including all aspects of the experience of mental health and mental illness, including health services, drug and alcohol, primary care, housing, employment, community services, justice, the police, education, social inclusion and so on.

The Office will have the necessary skills and capacity to consider mental health from a whole of government perspective, responding to the broader social determinants of mental health.

A key role for the Office will be looking at the mental health service system in the ACT at a strategic level and identifying areas for improvement. The Office will need to have strong relationships with service providers, consumers and carers in order to be effective in its role.

When will the work plan be delivered?

Working with the Agency Stewardship Group, the Office will prepare a practical mental health reform work plan within 100 days of Coordinator-General commencing and agreed to by Cabinet as soon as possible subsequently.

Will the community have an opportunity to comment on the work plan?

The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing will act as stewards to guide the development of an initial whole-of-government work plan within the first 100 days of the Coordinator General commencing. This work plan would then be further developed through community co-design.

Will the Office deal with individual consumer complaints?

No, individual complaints are best progressed through existing avenues in ACT Health, the ACT Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman. However, the Office should work with these agencies to identify systemic issues and develop solutions with the sector.

How will the different areas of government work together to improve mental health outcomes?

An Agency Stewardship Group, a cross-directorate working group, will prepare a practical mental health reform work plan within 100 days of commencing. The initial work plan will identify key priority projects and will help set expectations about what the Office can achieve. This work plan would then be further developed through community co-design.

How will the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing report on progress against the work plan?

The Office will provide government and the community regular reports on progress against the work plan and against identified key performance indicators that will be agreed by the Stewardship Group. Updates to the ACT Community will be provided through annual reports and other reports as determined by the Coordinator-General.

Will the Office allow the community and consumers to provide feedback?

The Office will work to develop a real-time feedback mechanism, which could then be used by service providers to improve care on the ground. This feedback will allow transparent real time tracking of consumer and carer, and on the ground providers of experiences of mental health services, at the point of care.

Will the Mental Health Advisory Council have an advisory role for the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing?

There is a need to update the Mental Health Advisory Council Terms of Reference to give that group a dual reporting role to both the Minister for Mental Health and the Coordinator-General. This will bring the voice of consumers, carers, health professionals, service providers and other community members into the work of the Office, ensuring that those in need of mental health support can access the right services, at the right time.

Will the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing be subject to a review?

The Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing is subject to a review in relation to its own effectiveness and contribution to reform after its commencement. The Office will engage the community to determine what indicators of success will be evaluated.

What sort of authority will the Office have to request and receive information necessary to drive reform?

The Coordinator-General will have the authority, agreed by Government, to work with ACT Government services and agencies. While investigations and complaints will continue to be handled through the Official Visitors Scheme and the Health Services Commissioner, the Office should have a mandate to request information or attend services where it is necessary to inform its work. Interaction with other non-Government and Commonwealth agencies will need to be driven by developing strong relationships.

Is legislative change required for the establishment of the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing?

There is no legislative change required for the establishment and operation of the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

What is the cost to establish the Office?

The government committed $2.9m in funding for the establishment and operation of the Office was committed to in the 2017-18 Budget. Beyond 2020-21, further recurrent funding will be the subject of budget bids through the normal budget process.

Page last updated on: 30 Oct 2018