Catherine Lourey, Commissioner, Karen Burns, Deputy Commissioner, Fay Jackson, Deputy Commissioner, Robyn Shields, Deputy Commissioner, Julie Robotham, Director Strategic Operations and Communications, Julie Zieth, Executive Officer,

Louis Parry, Mental Health Commission of NSW 

Martin Cohen, Deputy Commissioner, Allan Sparkes, Deputy Commissioner

1. Welcome    

The Commissioner welcomed members to the meeting and acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land on which the attendees were meeting. The Commissioner also acknowledged the lived experience of people with mental illness. The Commissioner advised that due to unforeseen circumstances and other priority commitments, the first half of the meeting would be attended by two Deputy Commissioners and that further conversations will be held with the other Deputy Commissioners who are absent. As such, while the meeting will discuss the agenda, there may be items which will be further discussed when all Deputies can come together to have a broader and inclusive discussion – these include the approach to engaging Deputy Commissioners in the Commission’s work and the development of the Strategic Plan.

2.  Project update

2.1    Suicide Prevention Framework.
Julie Robotham joined the meeting to provide an update on the Strategic Framework on Suicide Prevention.  The Government invited the Commission to do this piece of work, which is being developed under the auspices of the Suicide Prevention Advisory Group (SPAG). The Minister for Mental Health has asked for the Framework to be developed with a strong community engagement component, and to identify priority programs of work for future investment. Points raised include:

  • This project is looking at the development of a whole of government piece of work, and is to develop a strategic framework for suicide prevention for the whole of NSW
  • The project aligns with Lifespan, and aligns to the Fifth National Mental Health Plan
  • The community consultations will be held in four locations across NSW and there will be an online survey open to everyone to contribute to the process. 

2.2     Parliamentary Inquiry into prevention of youth suicide
Catherine Lourey spoke about her recent appearance at the NSW Parliament Joint Committee on Children and Young People’s inquiry into the Prevention of Youth Suicide in New South Wales, and the Committee’s interest in what needs to be done, the absence of suicide data for this age group and by locality, and the role of schools and families. 

3.  Aboriginal Mental Health Policy Mapping Project    

Julie Robotham gave an update on this project, advising that a half day workshop is being planned to bring together all agencies involved in the mapping exercise to discuss the initial findings and a way forward. 

4.  Engaging Deputy Commissioners    

4.1     Availability 

  • Deputy Commissioners’ availability needs to be confirmed, not only for the meetings, which should take priority, but as well as the type of involvement the Deputy Commissioner is available for e.g. community visits, out of hours events, rural travel to event, project involvement etc.
  • Flexibility is key to maximising the relationship, in achieving the Commission’s work priorities.

4.2    Work with individual strengths and interests/expertise

  • There is a need to align work with Deputy Commissioners’ strengths and expertise.
  • To optimise the relationship, the support of Commission staff was acknowledged, as was having the right staff mix.

4.3    How the work of the Deputies and the Deputy C ommissioner meetings can best work

  • It is worthwhile holding full-day meetings of the Deputy Commissioners. All bring something different to the table. It is important to understand, share and discuss perspectives. 
  • The Deputy Commissioners create something innovative in the way they work together.
  • Having a Deputy Commissioner with lived experience is unique and commands respect across the sector.
  • There is value in having capacity to increase the number of days that Deputy Commissioners are engaged, at times, when it is necessary.

4.4    Future considerations

  • Aboriginal mental health should stay on the agenda of Deputy Commissioners meetings.
  • Whether there is a need for Deputy Commissioners to have a closer structural role for projects and participation more broadly.
  • Fortnightly telephone conferences would keep Deputy Commissioners informed, and keep the team spirit going. Important issues can be flushed out in an open two-way conversation.
  • Deputy Commissioners with lived experience also have other experience and skills and should be engaged in events for this other experience also.
  • It is important that the engagement of Deputy Commissioners is done in a way that permits them to be sustained in their other lives.
  • Optimising Deputy Commissioner advice and expertise through asking the right questions at the commencement of a project, not simply at the end.
  • It is important that anyone appointed the role of Deputy Commissioner has experience sitting on committees, which also has implications for how we mentor and provide leadership opportunities for potential Community Advisory Council and Deputy Commissioner leaders.

5.    External Review    

Catherine Lourey gave an update on the external review of the Commission and the Commission’s Act.

Dr David Chaplow has now concluded the consultation and information gathering stage, and will begin writing his report and developing recommendations to amend the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 (NSW).

Dr Chaplow has kept the Commission updated on progress to date, and this will continue as the report nears completion.

6.    Strategic Plan    

Deputy Commissioners present discussed the current outline and draft directions of the Commission’s Draft Strategic Plan. Topics discussed include:

6.1  Scope and purpose

  • Where the Commission sees itself in the next five years
  • What the Commission should set as goals to keep the momentum going
  • The Commission should be on the frontline more
  • The judgment for the Commission’s work should be, ‘Is this work helpful?’
  • What are the areas in which the Commission has done well? What are the areas that need more attention?
    • The Commission could look more closely at:
    • Drug & alcohol
    • LGBTIQ
    • Aboriginal mental health
    • Intellectual disability
    • Physical health
  • The Commission’s role, which is to support people to live well in the community
  • The Commission’s opportunities shouldn’t be impacted on by poor decision-making in relation to funding
  • Closing the gap between bureaucracy and service delivery
  • What the Commission does that no-one else does – stepping into the gap.

6.2  Staff development to support reform work

  • Proposal for commission staff to attend a placement in mental health services to learn and to fill the chasm between bureaucracy and service delivery. Staff could attend placements in the public sector and the not-for-profit sector.
  • Language needs to change, for example talking of ‘people’ instead of ‘consumers’. This gives the Commission the opportunity to change the culture within mental health, and the broader community.
  • Developing a vision, and a way to strategically get there. This gives staff an understanding of their work, and gives focus.
  • It is important to not be inward-looking. There is a need to focus on the people and the services.
  • It is not about branding, it is about the outcome in the community; community visits must be more meaningful.
  • It is important that the Commission’s committees include a person with lived experience, because lived experience brings passion. 

7.    General discussion and other business
    Attendees discussed topics including: 

7.1  Potential work streams:

  • young people & bullying
  • the wellbeing of junior doctors
  • young people
  • first responders.

7.2  Systemic issues

  • The importance of examining social determinants.

    • Workforce
    • The casualisation of the workforce 
    • The health sector, including mental health, is understaffed, under-resourced. There are many vacancies
    • Psychiatric liaison nurses 
    • The problems when LHD admin staff are overriding clinical staff. Increasing numbers of admin staff do not have a clinical background
    • Assertive outreach teams finish work at 4.30pm, and after-hours teams no longer exist.
  • Potentially pushing for a Commonwealth Royal Commission into abuse, misuse and neglect in mental health facilities. This would require having the National Commission and the Human Rights Commission on board. 
  • Social and emotional wellbeing 
  • Making implementation of Living Well a requirement of accreditation would encourage Local Health Districts to plan for this.
  • Concerns about Pathways to Community Living Initiative and participants not engaging with their treating teams.
  • Looking at changing 000 services so that a caller can be transferred to a specialist service, and a peer worker can attend, rather than simply sending paramedics to take the person to the emergency room. The person could be taken to a different service, which is like a home where people are supported.  
  • Whether there is a need for a separate hospital environment for people affected by ice. This may give more traction to stopping seclusion and restraint.

Agenda item:    Action
Minutes:    Secretariat to provide members with draft Minutes to correct prior to next meeting.
Next meeting:    Monday 23 April 2018, Mental Health Commission, Gladesville

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Last updated: 2 July 2018