New law and terminology defines mental illness in Victoria with significant changes to the legal framework that assesses and treats people with a mental illness. The Mental Health Tribunal is the independent statutory tribunal providing the safeguard for the making of compulsory treatment orders. The new law seeks to minimise compulsory mental health treatment and ensure that people with a mental illness are supported to make or participate in decisions about their assessment, treatment and recovery.


Lucy Carter

Lawyer, Mental Health Legal Centre

Mental health service providers and designated mental health services

Last updated

1 July 2021


A ‘designated mental health service’ is defined in section 3 of the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) (‘MHA 2014’) to mean a prescribed public hospital, health service or other hospital within the meaning of section 3(1) of the Health Services Act 1988 (Vic), or the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health (‘Forensicare’). 

At the time of writing (1 July 2021), only the public hospitals and public health services that have psychiatric facilities in Victoria have been so prescribed. No private hospitals have been prescribed and therefore a person may only receive treatment at a private hospital voluntarily.

Mental health service providers’ are defined (at s 3) to include either a designated mental health service or a publicly funded mental health community support service, to the extent it provides services not funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

At least one authorised psychiatrist must be appointed at each designated mental health service (s 150). The authorised psychiatrist is effectively responsible for the person’s treatment in accordance with the MHA 2014.

Services in the community

Community based mental health services offer services to people who have a mental illness, including those who have been in psychiatric inpatient services.

Each designated mental health service has a crisis assessment and treatment team that deals with urgent situations, and some have other teams, such as a mobile support team for clients who are unable to access their local mental health service.

The members of these teams are usually doctors or psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers or psychologists.

Inpatient services

Inpatient services provide short-term and long-term care and treatment for people who may not be able to be treated successfully in the community.

Most of Melbourne’s large metropolitan hospitals have a specialised psychiatric inpatient facility.

In addition, there are a number of specialised units such as mother and baby units, eating disorder units, psycho-geriatric facilities and the Thomas Embling forensic hospital.

Consumer and community managed services

A number of government and non-government services provide assistance for people with a mental illness in Victoria. They offer services including accommodation, counselling, support for relatives and friends, advocacy and self-help, and day centres.

The Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service is particularly relevant for compulsory patients. It is a free, confidential and independent service that supports people who are receiving compulsory treatment to make decisions and to have as much say as possible about their assessment, treatment and recovery.

More information about relevant services can be obtained from Mental Health Victoria and the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council.

Community Visitors Program

The Community Visitors Program is run by the Office of the Public Advocate.

Community Visitors are volunteers who  are empowered under the MHA 2014 (pt 9) to inquire into the adequacy and standards of services and facilities.

Community Visitors can inspect premises and documents, make inquiries and investigate complaints (see

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