The Victorian Government has revealed a $70-million plan to improve services for people with mental illnesses at risk of committing crimes, in an effort to prevent them from entering the justice system.
The plan will see $40 million put towards expanding the Thomas Embling Hospital, a forensic facility where people with mental health issues who commit violent crimes are often sent instead of prison.
The remainder of the funding will go towards specialist treatment and a range of community and court programs to help identify people at risk of committing offences.
“We know when one in five Victorians every year have a mental health challenge and that half of us over our lifetime will want to seek support from our mental health services, that this is a big issue,” Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said.
“There’s nearly $30 million to work on identifying early, particularly young people, intervening early, to keep them out of the justice system and into the treatment system to avoid problems.”
The funding will be rolled out in next month’s state budget.
Mr Foley said it was the first time in more than 20 years there had been investment in expanding the Thomas Embling Hospital.
Government needs to ‘make up for lost time’
The Opposition welcomed the funding but said the Government had been too slow to act.
“The simple reality is that we are now two-and-a-half years in to the term of this Government, and we have seen precious little action thus far,” Opposition corrections spokesman Edward O’Donohue said.
“Any new funding must be implemented as soon as possible to make up for this lost time.”
Thomas Embling Hospital has been plagued with problems in recent times, with a number of violent attacks on staff and a chronic bed shortage.
Just last week, a man found not guilty of killing his mother due to mental impairment was given a custodial sentence at the facility, but the court heard it would likely be six months before a bed became available.