Victoria's mental health system has "catastrophically failed to live up to expectations", a historic royal commission has found.
In its 680-page interim report released on Thursday, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System said years of under-investment led to a system that was "woefully under prepared for current and future mental health challenges."
The commission said rural communities have poorer access to and lower levels of use of mental health services, and identified an immediate need to provide more support to those living in rural communities.
Wimmera Health Care Group chief executive Catherine Morley welcomed the report, but warned the "devil is in the detail".
"It's not going to be an instant fix, even if they find the money - everyone knows the system has been an under-resourced area for a long time," Ms Morley said.
"There are lots of people working in the mental health space in the region, but they are overworked and under-resourced."
The commission noted existing services were already in high demand and the distances required to travel made them difficult to access.
It recommended a new clinical outreach service be established in each sub-regional centre, to complement the work being done by a local health service, like the Wimmera Health Care Group.
The new service would work with local GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and outpatient services.
"There are gaps in the system ... I'm interested to see how they are going to develop new models of care," Ms Morley said.
"Will there really be a rural-based model of care that is completely and utterly different to a city-based model of care?
"I get really frustrated that we're disadvantaged because we're rural.
"We just want all of our community to have access to health services as close to home as possible that is high quality and safe."
Premier Daniel Andrews told Parliament that all of the commission's recommendations will be adopted.
The commission highlighted the importance of people with lived experience of mental illness and an understanding of rural life leading future services.
West Wimmera Shire Council chief executive officer David Leahy said providing a familiar face would lead to more people accessing assistance.
"By utilising people with a feel for rural and remote communities, they will know when to step in to help and how to best communicate with the community," Mr Leahy said in the council's submission.
"The locals employed by the current outreach program, all know which events to attend to enable people to approach them (golf days, local footy and netball, and hockey)."
The report recommended two new centres be created and at least 170 extra hospital beds for mental health patients across the state.
A second round of public hearings will be held in April to May next year. The commission will deliver its final report in October 2020, focused on re-designing models of care and support.
- If you, or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Help on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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