Community Mental Health Misses Out

10 Oct 2006 archivemedia

Inflexibility in the delivery of government services is forcing mental health patients to threaten self-harm in order to gain treatment.

Shadow Mental Health Minister Michelle Lensink said part of the solution lay in better funding for more responsible non-government service providers but Labor ideology meant the government resists funding NGO’s over its own services.

Ms Lensink said she had spoken to one woman with ongoing mental health issues who had been unable to get help from the government controlled system until she threatened self harm in the front yard to force police to take her to an emergency department.

This woman had to hurt herself to get any service. She had already been a patient within the public system but the lack of responsiveness meant that as long as she politely asked for help no one would listen. In the end she was forced to ‘scream’ for help.

Quite simply the early intervention programs do not exist to help someone in this woman’s position. And the non-government organisations able to provide services in the mental health sector are overwhelmed they can only help those at the ‘pointy end’.

Ms Lensink said South Australia had the lowest level of funding for community-based services in the mental health sector in Australia.

“Only 2.1 percent of SA mental health spending goes to NGOs compared with 11.5 percent in Victoria and 6.2 percent nationally.

We need well-resourced public mental health services but this shouldn’t be achieved through the impoverishment of the non-government organisations which are often able to respond to individual or community needs with minimal delay and at lower cost.

The rest of Australia seems to understand this concept but Mike Rann and Mental Health Minister Gail Gago don’t.

Ms Lensink said that increasingly other Australian governments were involving NGOs to help deliver mental health programs out in SA the Rann Government is neglecting the non government sector of support.

The roll out of mental health projects has been unacceptably slow. And this year’s Budget gave little cause to feel anything more than last year’s generosity had been a ‘not-to-be-repeated’ election special from the Rann Government.