The 2017/18 Federal Budget brought a much-needed focus on funding the growing gap in psychosocial rehabilitation support as the NDIS rolls out. Addressing that ‘gap’ is about assisting people with severe mental illness resulting in psychosocial disability who are not eligible for the NDIS.
Wellways welcomed last week’s budget announcement of an $80 million mental health investment from the Commonwealth to begin to deal with the gap. Health Minister Greg Hunt intends to use this money to attract co-investment from the states and territories, turning the $80 million into a $160 million investment for community-based mental health services. Access to these services has been uncertain since governments agreed to wind down a range of mental health programs to fund the much-needed NDIS.
Wellways CEO Elizabeth Crowther, president of Community Mental Health Australia, expresses the views of the sector here.
Minister Hunt provided a short video brief on the key budget measures, and in his post-budget briefing reconfirmed his commitment to including mental health as one of the four pillars of his long-term plan for national health reform.
Wellways, along with Mental Health Australia and VICSERV, welcomes other measures announced in the Budget. These include:
- $33.5 million for expanded access to mental health treatment for current and former members of the Australian Defence Force
- $9.1 million telehealth initiative set to roll out in 2017 so that people living in rural and remote regions of Australia receive improved access to psychologists
- $11.1 million to prevent suicide in locations where suicide incidents repeatedly occur
- $15 million in support for mental health research
- An increase in the Medicare levy to fully fund the NDIS
We are, however, concerned about the announcement of drug testing for new people seeking welfare payments. This measure may affect many of the vulnerable people in our society, such as those with mental health issues, as they are over-represented in this group.
While Treasurer Scott Morrison’s Budget speech identified $173 million to be invested in Australia’s mental health, Wellways recognises that funding must be accompanied by mental health reform. The National Mental Health Commission’s 2014 Review requires comprehensive implementation.