Michelle Lensink

Mental Health budget all delays and disappointments

The Rann Governments’ budget has ignored the mental health crisis in South Australia by disregarding non-government organisations (NGOs) and regional areas, and delaying crucial capital works projects, Shadow Minister for Mental Health Michelle Lensink said today.

Ms Lensink said that mental health reform had been placed on the Rann Governments’ backburner, as it ignores pleas from NGOs to make the $25 million one-off funding allocated in the 2005-2006 budget recurrent, provide essential programs and services in regional centres and continues to delay capital work projects by over a year.

“The Rann Government highlighted in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 budgets that its target would be to reform mental health. They make promises each year but each year we see funding left unspent and no progress made,” Ms Lensink said.

“This budget provides nothing that hasn’t already been announced during the election campaign.

“NGOs have been lobbying the government to make the $25 million one-off funding recurrent to allow them to continue with vital programs and services. Because this has not taken place, NGOs are now uncertain whether these services will be able to continue, opening the system up to losses to crucial services and programs, especially in rural areas where there are scant services.

“Minister Zollo stated in a media release on February 14, 2006 that:

‘In remote areas, mental health problems are exacerbated by isolation, loneliness and a lack of resources and facilities. It’s vital that these special needs are met by local staff who understand these unique circumstances.’

“Seven months later the Rann Government ignores it own opinion by only offering a specialised service at Glenside, and ignoring pleas from communities and farmers’ groups to provide services in rural areas.

“I agree with Minister Zollo that especially now, people in rural areas who are facing even further hardship due to the drought, have special circumstances and need services that are accessible.

“Where was this in the budget? – It’s just another example of the Rann Government’s city-centric attitudes and beliefs that Adelaide ends at Gepps Cross and Darlington.

“There have also been long delays in critical capital works projects, with stage 2 of the Lyell McEwin project commencement being delayed eleven months and completion date fourteen months passed the 2005-2006 projections. The estimated costs of the project have also increased by nearly $11 million.

“The Rann Government has only provided the bare essentials for mental health services in South Australia.

“This budget is nothing new or innovative - where is the promised mental health reform?”

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