The Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT) is a member based peak body. We represent and promote the interests of community managed mental health services and have a strong commitment to enabling better access and outcomes for every Tasmanian.

MHCT State Budget Wrap Up


Over the past couple of weeks there have been some major announcements for the mental health sector in the lead up to the State Budget that was handed down .
Here at MHCT we have now had a chance to 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.

You may have seen already the additional $16 million to go into the budget for community mental health services. This is a welcome increase that should see the funds go directly into service provision that will meet a significant need within the community.Below is the outlined measures regarding mental health and related areas of the budget.

It is good to see acknowledgement that we need additional funding within the community mental health sector, however, much of this now seems to be a little lost in the rhetoric around hospital expenditure and bed numbers. Notably, there is  hardly any additional investment into preventative mental health and mental health promotion.

Community Mental Health Care Packages

  • $11.4 million for packages of care of vulnerable Tasmanians with mental illness.
  • 7.2 million to Baptcare over 4 years for the MI Care Program
  • Life Without Barriers to receive a portion of that funding over 4 years for the #iConnect Program
  • The mental health packages of care are statewide and cover at risk children and youth, adults with complex needs and adults with severe and persistent mental illness, and were previously funded by the Australian Government.

It is excellent to see the continuation and extension of funding for these two particular programs. Any investment that will support Tasmanians with complex needs to have fewer hospital admissions or the need for acute care is essential to building a more integrated and recovery focused mental health sector.


Recruitment of Staff at Tolosa Street Mental Health Facility

  • A welcome inclusion in the budget is the recruitment of additional staff  at Tolosa Street Mental Health Facility.
  • While there is not a lot of detail on this measure as yet, we have been able to determine that there will be beds available 24//7 as a result of this initiative
  • Our understanding is the intention is that this will cater for people who are at the sub-acute level whose needs would be better served outside of the Department of Psychiatry unit at the Royal Hobart Hospital

MHCT is currently looking into more detail around this proposed recruitment at the Tolosa facility. From the outset, it looks like it will be a small but positive step toward providing a level of stepped care and potentially alleviate some of the pressures on our ED’s and acute facilities. We will be following up with DHHS to learn more about the detail of this initiative and look forward to providing you with more detail.

Expanding Support For School Mental Health and Well-being Initiatives

  • In addition to the health budget provisions, the Department of Education has included $250,000 to Speak Up Stay ChatTy to continue its innovative Team ChatTy schools program with the support of Relationships Australia.
  • The program has been developed using best practice programs in this space, including Beyond Blue’s SensAbility Program and ReachOut’s Building Resilience in Young People.
  • Also coming from the Education budget is the additional 14.8 FTE professional support staff are employed across Government schools including speech pathologists, psychologists and social workers.This will also be supported by the $4 million investment into the school nurse program – all of whom will have mental health and alcohol and drug training.
  • The identified areas of need in this area in include:
    • access to assessments to enable early diagnosis and timely intervention for students with professional support needs;
    • impact on schools and professional services of the increasing student mental health issues, including those associated with trauma. This will include the creation of a statewide critical incident response team

MHCT is pleased to see investment in the mental health and wellbeing of young people. It is time that there is a focus in this area to build the capacity and resilience of the upcoming generations and our schools are an important vehicle for achieving this. This also highlights the intentions of our state mental health reforms, to better integrate health and education and we are keen to see the impact of this approach.
It is also worth noting that a concentrated effort in prevention and early intervention is needed across all population groups and age cohorts in order to truly achieve better mental health outcomes for all Tasmanians.

Investment in Rural Outreach Programs

  • $2.2 million for mental health outreach services in rural Tasmania, with $1.7 million going to Rural Alive and Well to provide this service for the next three years.

It is good to see continued investment in an area of need such as rural and regional outreach supports. With many Tasmanians not having access to or knowledge of existing mental health supports in their community it is vital that those pathways through outreach services continue.

Early Referral Service After a Suicide Attempt

  • further $1.8 million over three years will go to early intervention and referral services to help prevent suicide through Anglicare.

This program is a long awaited initiative as part of the Tasmanian Suicide Prevention Strategies. We knew already that Anglicare had been successful in the Tendering process around this initiative and they are now in the important planning stages just prior to implementation. The program will see individuals that are discharged from hospital post a suicide attempt receive wrap around supports to ensure they are referred into appropriate services for their needs. The program is based on the beyondblue initiative ‘The Way Back.’

Grass roots mental health support and continued funding for advocacy

  • $525 000 to continue grassroots mental health support and community participation for people with mental health issues and extended advocacy services, for mental health and disability clients, after current funding runs out next year.
  • This includes $75k per annum over the forward estimates to ensure the continuation of the grassroots mental health program currently being delivered through Neighbourhood houses.
  • The remainder is in support of Advocacy Tasmania’s vital work to support the rights of people living with a mental illness.

The Neighbourhood houses grass roots mental health initiative has been supported by Wellways since it was announced in the previous budget. It is good to see this type of early intervention supports continue. The allocation of $75K each year seems like a small figure – MHCT would be interested to understand if this funding is adequate and how the program is going so far.

Hospital Beds and other Related Measures to our sector:

Moonah Youth Facility:

  • $800K per annum to operate the Moonah Youth Response Centre
  • Young people to have access to trauma informed multidisciplinary services.

MHCT has asked around what is planned for the mental health supports and trauma informed capacity of staff for this facility. We have been advised by the Minister for Human services that this is still in the planning stages, however, it is intended that a Community Service Organisation with this capacity will be providing these supports to the young people at the facility.

Hospital Beds and Patients First

  • The Patients First initiative ‘Stage 2’ has been announced with additional $67.3 million over four years
  • Foremost among the Government’s spending promises is 106 more hospital beds statewide — which includes 50 already announced but only partially delivered — plus 350 more staff to run them, all to be delivered within a year.
  • Ten of those beds will  be into the Royal Hobart Hospital’s Emergency Department.
  • The Patients First initiative in ‘Stage One’ saw the continuation of the Psychiatric Emergency Nurses (PEN) in the ED at RHH

With the hospital wait times in emergency and access to care more generally set to still be a huge election issue, we would hope that these announcements began to ease the burden on hospitals and their staff. It is always the position of MHCT that the best place for assistance in recovery from mental illness is not in the acute units of hospitals but in the community.