The peak body representing the Tasmanian community managed mental health sector at a state and national level.

MHCT Federal Budget Wrap Up

 

By now you may have seen some of the highlighted measures for the mental health sector that have come out of Tuesday evening’s Federal Budget 2017-18. Here at MHCT we have read various summaries and media relating to these measures and are now able to provide a brief analysis from our perspective as the peak body for community managed mental health in Tasmania.

As you may have already noted, overall the budget includes several inclusions of ‘new money’ for the mental health sector. While more expenditure in our sector is always welcome, it is our hope that these new measures will have a direct impact on improvement to access for services in Tasmania. It is also worth noting that at this stage it is uncertain, for some of the measures, how much funding will benefit Tasmanians directly.

Below are some of the Federal Budget measures that specifically relates to the mental health sector and people who need psychosocial supports provided by the NDIS.
From our perspective, it is good to see such acknowledgement of the need to increase supports in the community mental health sector for Australians. Our National peak body Community Mental health Australia has some further insights on the budget and you can see their media release here. 

 

 

Reducing the Community Mental Health Service Gap

  • The Government will commit $80 million over four years for community mental health services to assist people with severe mental illness resulting in psychosocial disability who are not eligible for assistance through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  • Services will be facilitated through Primary Health Networks to enable a regionally-focused, stepped care approach, improving coordination and integrated care for individuals with psychosocial disabilities. The additional Commonwealth investment will be delivered once agreements have been reached with appropriate commitments from each State and Territory.

The above statements come directly from the portfolio budget papers. MHCT has taken this to mean the Tasmanian State Government will need to take every opportunity to ensure that there is no gap in services for this cohort of people. Essentially, what piece of the pie Tasmanian’s needing psychosocial supports will get, will be determined on matching the contribution of the Commonwealth investment t and we encourage the State Government to leverage this opportunity to ensure the maximum benefit is secured for Tasmanians

What is also interesting about this measure is the Treasurer’s own assertions about who would be receiving this funding:
‘The biggest chunk of that pie is an $80 million commitment over four years for people who had been at risk of losing their mental health support services during the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Treasurer Scott Morrison said people with mental illnesses including “severe depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia and post-natal depression” would be covered under this scheme, for those requiring psychosocial services’ Click here to read the full story from Huffington Post Australia

MHCT is concerned that even with co-contribution from each state, this will not be enough to cover already under-supported illnesses such as eating disorders who still need very specific programs in addition to regular community mental health services. There are other mental illnesses not mentioned such as Borderline Personality Disorder, and there are people with those conditions that may lose services to the NDIS or do not have access to services currently. It is our hope that there is a solution out there for everyone that needs psychosocial supports.

We will be seeking further clarification on this over the coming weeks on this particular measure.

Veterans Mental Health – Department of Veterans Affairs

  • In addition to last year’s measure of  $37.9 million over four years from 2016-17 to extend access to Veterans for DVA services the government announced a further $58.6 million for mental health service for current and former members of the Australian Defence Force and veterans families.
  • The funding injection also takes in more than $30 million for non-liability mental health services to ex-service personnel and a $10 million spend on suicide prevention programs.

This is again a welcome outcome for our current serving members, veterans and their families. MHCT would like to learn what this means for Tasmanians accessing DVA services and seeking mental health supports.

Rural and Remote Telehealth Psychological Services

  • This measure provides funding of $9.1 million over four years to enable Australians who live in rural and regional Australia to access psychologists via telehealth.
  • This improved access will allow people in need of psychological services to connect more promptly with clinicians. Psychologists will be able to deliver by videoconference up to seven of 10 sessions under Medicare rebatable mental health plans, referred by GPs.

Strahan in the North West of the state has been named as a potential location to receive funding for this program. MHCT would like to see this as part of wrap around services for individuals accessing mental health care plans via their GP. Hopefully this is not seen as now providing adequate access for all rural and remote areas. $9.1 million over 4 years doesn’t stretch very far over the whole country.

Suicide Prevention Funding for High Risk Area Infrastructure

  • This measure seeks to prevent suicide in specific locations – hotspots – where suicide incidents repeatedly occur. Funding for signage will encourage people to seek help, and Lifeline’s crisis services will be better supported.
  • The development of a National Partnership Agreement will support states and territories to deliver small infrastructure projects, such as fencing or surveillance to deter people from attempting suicide.
  • This measure will cost $11.1 million from 2017–18 to 2019–20

First and foremost, when discussing this issue publicly we urge you not to mention specific locations or means of suicide. As our Tasmanian Government has already invested in some preventative infrastructure for a high risk area in Tasmania it would potentially be unlikely that Tasmania would receive any of this specific funding.

Much Needed Funding Boost to Mental Health Research
  • This measure invests $15 million over two years to support mental health research within Australia, by increasing research capacity for early intervention and prevention that will help improve the mental health and wellbeing of Australians.
  • Specifically, this investment provides:
    • $5 million to Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, to help complete an integrated healthcare and translational research facility in Melbourne.
    • $5 million to the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute for research involving young people with major mood or psychiatric disorders and in suicide prevention.
    • $5 million to the NSW-based Black Dog Institute, in collaboration with the Hunter Institute, to translate research findings into improved and innovative service delivery for people with anxiety and depression.
This is a very welcome measure that will hopefully have impact nationally on improving services and preventing illness and suicide. MHCT looks forward to hearing about the progress of this research.