McGowan Government talks the talk but fails to fund mental health properly

Despite a commitment to invest in mental health, the McGowan Labor’s Government budget falls well short of delivering services to meet the increasing demand, according to the Opposition.
“The big headline of a $1.3bn investment equates to an $181m increase over four years,” Shadow Health spokesperson Libby Mettam said.
“While we welcome any investment in this area, given the increasing number of presentations for mental health services, it’s unlikely to keep pace with the demand.
“It is also disappointing to see yet again the McGowan Government turn their back on proper investment in prevention, which as outlined in the Sustainable Health Review, would reduce the need for costly acute services into the future.
“The budget states that twenty-two per cent of mental health patients are readmitted to specialised mental health inpatient services across the hospital system within 28 days of discharge.
“Yet despite a commitment to invest in mental health prevention initiatives we are seeing this investment drop to 1.3% by 2025-2026.”
Ms Mettam while she welcomed the McGowan Government’s commitment to implement all 32 recommendations of the Ministerial Taskforce into Public Mental Health Services for Infants, Children and Adolescents final report there does not appear to be any real urgency or funding to do it in this year’s budget.
“Despite promising to overhaul the child and adolescent mental health system, the budget has allocated just $47 million over a four-year period,” Ms Mettam said.
“This includes the provision of less than 12 FTE across the Child and Adolescent Mental Health frontline workforce across the State.
“This comes at a time when 1 in 5 children are being turned away from treatment because they are too complex and 14% of children between 4-17 have mental health issues, with the number even higher in regional areas.
“The taskforce report also found that the number of children needing a specialist service for mental ill-health had increased 70 per cent since 2014 but the funding had not kept pace and was not proportionate with only 8 per cent of all mental health funding dedicated to services for infants, children, and adolescents.
“These issues are not new but they are escalating with the hospitalisation rate of children with mental health issues rising by a third since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when the government is sitting on a $5.7 billion surplus, it is appalling that the level of funding committed to improving the quality of mental health care for our most vulnerable children is so dismal.”