Full-time mental health commissioner to be appointed in SA

The state government will reinstate a full-time mental health commissioner and is considering creating an advisory group as part of a shake-up of the state’s mental health system.

Dec 15, 2022, updated Dec 15, 2022
Health Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Health Minister Chris Picton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Under changes introduced by the former Marshall Government in 2019, South Australia went from having one full-time dedicated mental health commissioner to three part-time commissioners.

Health Minister Chris Picton this afternoon announced he would reverse that decision by re-establishing the single full-time role.

It follows a recommendation from outgoing lead commissioner John Mannion, who has accepted a new role as chief executive of Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation.

The state’s two other part-time commissioners – Heather Nowak and David Kelly – will stay on until the end of March, with the state government to advertise for a new full-time commissioner early next year.

“We are determined to listen to the experts in the mental health space – both those who have lived experience and service delivery – and act on their advice in order to significantly improve the function of the mental health commissioner role and its place in the broader mental health system in South Australia,” Picton said.

“I appreciate his (Mannion’s) recommendations for future improvement and look forward to working with him in the future.”

It comes as the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) conducts a review of the state’s Mental Health Act, with a final report due to be handed down in February.

The government said once it receives the findings, it would consider whether to create an advisory group to the mental health commissioner “to ensure different perspectives are heard”.

It would also consider the role and function of the commissioner.

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According to the Mental Health Commission website, the current three commissioners are not able to investigate complaints or concerns about services.

They are instead tasked with “implementing the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017–2022”.

“The SALRI review will provide an opportunity to further explore the commissioners’ roles and reconsider the legal and administrative framework in place in order to support the intended function of the Mental Health Commission,” Picton said.

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