Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mental health and the federal budget

The 2012-13 federal budget has been released, and according to some expert commentators, there is good and bad news for mental health arising from the budget.

The good news is:

  • Overall funding for mental health has not been cut.
  • Funding for the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program, providing incentives for community based general practices to engage mental health nurses, has been maintained.
  • The government will provide $21 million to fund additional allied mental health services for patients under the Better Access initiative, whereby treatment for those with diagnosed mental health problems is partially covered by Medicare.
  • New spending of $115m over five years is directed towards better mental health care for veterans.
  • From 2014-2015 $9.1m will be provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct its Survey of Disability every three years, rather than every six years.

The bad news is:

  • Funding for the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program has been capped, with estimates that approximately 30,000 people with severe mental illness will miss out on services due to this capping.
  • While the government has increased spending on health by 37% from 2007-08 levels, mental health's share of the overall health budget is in decline.
  • The long term future of the Better Access scheme is unclear beyond 2012.
  • A number of programs announced in 2011 have not been included in the budget. These include the Partners in Recovery program and upscaling of Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres. The first program is to coordinate better coordination of services for people with severe and persistent mental illness and the second is for young people with early psychosis.

What are your thoughts about mental health spending in the budget. Is it enough (or too much), or do you think more could be done? Please leave your comments below.

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