Mental Health

11 May 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about mental health funding.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the last budget, the government allocated a sum of $25 million over two years to fund a range of community-based services for people with mental health difficulties. This was on the back of South Australia’s slipping to the bottom of the table of funding from its previous lofty position at the top. The SA report card indicated that only 2 per cent of mental health funding was going to NGOs. The government has not provided an answer to how that figure has been modified. Indeed, in her budget media release, the then minister for health, Lea Stevens, said:

This begins to address what has been identified by many as the biggest weakness in South Australia’s mental health services.

In response, however, SACOSS stated:

This budget still leaves South Australia running last on a per capita basis compared to the rest of the nation.

The Mental Health Coalition has on several occasions called for the $25 million to be made recurrent. Indeed, at its most recent forum on 9 May, I note that Geoff Harris, the CEO, said that it would make a big difference if the one-off funds were made recurrent. My questions are:

1. Given that these services have already commenced rolling out, when will the service providers be advised of continuation or otherwise of funding?

2. If the funding will not be continued, will the minister please explain why not?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): The $25 million to which the honourable member refers was an incredibly valuable injection of extra funding which this government made. It is one of the measures which demonstrates our commitment to the important needs of our mental health services. In fact, I remind the chamber that this government is spending $35 million a year more than the previous Liberal government on mental health services. They should hang their heads in shame, in absolute shame. In terms of the $25 million, the rest of the—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Members will come to order.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —funding will not be completed for another year. It has another year to go, and any considerations of further funding would be made in the budgetary decisions the year after that. They are funded for this coming year. However, I remind the chamber of the wide range of initiatives and commitment that this government has made to mental health. Finally, after many years of neglect, particularly under the previous Liberal government, we have made up much ground, put extra services in place and made a real commitment, for instance, the designation of a specific mental health minister alone. I am the only mental health minister in Australia, and I think that is—

The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Yes, I accept those congratulations from my colleague behind me. I think that is a very important indication of the commitment of this government.

Another indication of our commitment is the designation of a special reference to our Social Inclusion Board, which has been given the job of transforming our mental health system.

It has been given considerable resources, and it is a body which has considerable clout and credibility to assist in undertaking this important initiative, an initiative that looks at providing services for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. These are all steps and initiatives which this government has taken and which the previous Liberal government failed to take.

I take this opportunity to point out the initiatives that were announced during the election campaign. Over $10 million has been provided for the shared care proposal, taking important mental health services out into the community through our GP services and making it more of a front-line service for people in their local community. Taking that expertise out into GP centres is a primary health care initiative. Also, we have designated over $10 million to Healthy Young Minds. Given the outcome of the Generational Health Review, the importance of a primary health care model and the importance of investing more money in early intervention, promotion and such like, I believe the extra commitment of this government to services for our young people is particularly strategic. As I said, I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to answer this question.

In relation to the funding the honourable member referred to, the only official measurement of funding of which I am aware is the national mental health report that comes out annually but is always a couple of years behind when it is published. I draw to the attention of members that the most recent national mental health report says that South Australia’s funding is approximately the national average. I am happy to bring back the details—

The Hon. R.I. Lucas: What year?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The most recent. This is because every state reports mental health funding differently. The Mental Health Coalition, responsible for the report the honourable member refers to, has claimed therein that South Australia has the lowest funding, and I am aware of that. I have been advised that they did not count the $25 million funding to the non-government sector that the government provided in the last budget, and they put together their figures from various reports and announcements from all states. I am advised that that methodology is not a particularly sound one, so there are question marks, I am advised, about some of the validity of the way they collect, collate and interpret data.

I also understand that such a report did not take into consideration spending in other policy areas that directly or indirectly relates to mental health services, such as supported accommodation and housing. It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to answer this question and remind the council that, although South Australia has a long way to go with its services, we have a significant challenge ahead and I do not resile from that at all. However, it is obvious that we have put a number of really important measures in place and have a clear strategy to help overcome some of those deficits.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: By way of supplementary question, will the minister advise from the great song-and dance funding announcements we have had how many mental health workers, psychiatrists, community outreach workers and any other workers in the field have been recruited with that funding thus far?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: One of our election commitments— Healthy Young Minds—looks at an additional 20 community outreach workers and three psychiatrists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and outreach services.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: These are in the planning and are part of our election commitments, and our mental health telephone service has been extended as well.