Michelle Lensink

Mental Health Funding

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: On 11 January the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia issued a press release entitled ‘Mental health peak body pleads for urgent action’, in which the Executive Director, Geoff Harris, says:

A serious ongoing financial commitment to non-government providers of support services for mental health patients is desperately needed to balance the system and to relieve the crippling load on the acute care end.

The day after the release of the Cappo report on 21 February this year Jonathan Phillips, the former director of mental health in South Australia, stated:

It is imperative to get the rest of the money, and particularly out there to the NGOs or we will not have the building blocks in place, a bit like a jigsaw with pieces missing—it will never look proper.

In the latest edition of SACOSS News, a bi-monthly publication, the editorial states, under the title ‘Reform of the mental health sector’, in relation to the Cappo report:

. . . what it does not do is cost the plan or deal in any meaningful way with the complications or implementation challenges of such reform.

Further, it says:

. . . the plan, if executed poorly will only serve to rearrange the deck chairs, rename acute beds to be called intermediate beds, talk up intervention and fail to deliver.

In relation to the issue of support for non-government services, the last couple of paragraphs state in relation to the $43.6 million investment:

. . . does nothing to ensure the sustainability of non-government community based mental health services. The non-government community mental health sector plays a vital role in supporting people in the community and is perhaps the most critical link in transferring the focus from crisis care to preventative and early intervention care.

Well, we are told that we should wait until the state budget is released on June 7th. We are told the relevant ministers and senior bureaucrats are doing everything they can and the final decision will be in the number crunching of what the government thinks it can afford.

It then goes on to ask a couple of rhetorical questions, as follows:

Will the funding required for the full implementation of the plan be forthcoming? Will the community based supports get over the line? Substantial recurrent funding must be guaranteed to ensure that the sector—

that is, the non-government sector—

a core component of a recovery-oriented mental health system in South Australia, can properly contribute to the reform process.

My questions are:

1. Has the minister read these comments?

2. Has she been approached by SACOSS or any nongovernment organisation and, if so, what is her response to them?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): I thank the honourable member for her important questions. I also congratulate her on her elevation in terms of her promotion to deputy leader and also with the increased responsibilities of environment, along with mental health and substance abuse. It gives me great pleasure to answer this question because it does, in fact, point to the enormous amount of work that the Rann Labor government has been doing to reform the mental health system; a system which was left in absolute chaos. It was left very poorly degraded and had been in a very poor state for a long period of time.

This government has spent a number of years putting together strategies to ensure a complete overhaul and reform of our mental health system. Recently the Social Inclusion Board handed down its report ‘Stepping Up: a Social Inclusion Action Plan for Mental Health Reform 2007 to 2012’. It made 41 recommendations, all of which the government has agreed to in principle. Already it has signed off on 33 of those 41 recommendations.

The system involves implementing a stepped system of care, with mental health teams at the centre and other community health services tackling the crisis of acute psychosis by targeting a response to 800 chronically ill and complex needs people, and aligning the South Australian mental health system nationally and, as reported in this place before, redeveloping the Glenside campus as a centre of specialist mental health services. Some of the things within our reform agenda include funding for an increase in 24-hour supported accommodation, community rehabilitation centres, intermediate care beds and also secure beds. I have talked about the step design, so that people are able to step up to services as they become more ill and need them, and step down as they recover.

What the state government has already committed to in terms of cold, hard cash up-front is a $43.6 million funding package; a funding package that involves $18.2 million for 90 new intermediate care beds; $20.46 million for the 73 extra 24-hour supported accommodation; $1.8 million for transition funding; $1.6 million for eight new mental health nurse practitioner positions across regional areas; and, of course, $1.47 million for 800 complex chronic needs clients.

These services clearly help take the pressure off not only our acute services, our acute beds (which we find are currently bottlenecked and backlogged) but it will also help to prevent people from relapsing and becoming ill and requiring services. These services will, in effect, not only take pressure off our acute end but they will take pressure off the less complex end—our community services—as well.

In terms of NGO funding, this government demonstrated its commitment in the last funding round, with one-off funding of $25 million for a wide range of comprehensive services. I have reported in this place, in terms of future funding for NGOs and, for that matter, any other services, that we are currently in the bilateral budget round. As the honourable member knows, we will not be discussing the details of those negotiations and those bids until the budget is announced in June.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Will the minister advise whether any organisations have made representations to her on this issue and, if so, which ones?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I believe that none have approached me personally on problems in terms of recurrent funding specifically. I believe some have engaged in discussions with the agency. My advice to those people has been, in relation to any demands on their services and future funding, to submit all information and any other matters that they would like us to consider and that those matters will be considered in future budget rounds.

I meet regularly with a wide range of organisations. Some of those organisations may have mentioned these matters in general delegations; I cannot remember specifically but, as I said, I am quite confident that my agency would be in discussions with at least some of these agencies, and they have been invited to present all matters and materials that they want us to consider for future service arrangements.

questions archive

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.