The Australian Government’s mental health specific program responsibilities span mental health prevention and promotion, primary care services, workforce development, community based social support, employment and education support, and programs to target the needs of specific populations with mental illness.
The key role of states and territories in mental health care is providing specialised community mental health services and inpatient care, which is principally provided to people with severe mental illness. Many individuals who use these services require treatment in an inpatient setting at some stage in their lives. Their need for care and support spans clinical services, community support, stable accommodation, and support to engage in education and employment where they have capacity to do so.
States and territories also provide the majority of non-government organisation (NGO) based support programs for people with mental illness, and by far the majority of clinical and accommodation services for people with severe and debilitating illness. State and territory service systems share much common ground but differ in significant ways, such as the availability of services and which aspects of the mental health system have been identified as priorities in that state. States and territories have increased their investment in mental health in recent years, including through the COAG National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011.
Under National Health Reform, all governments have agreed to work in partnership to fund 50 per cent of the efficient growth in public hospital services from 2014-15, including public hospital services delivered in the community. The Australian Government’s reforms will take pressure off state and territory hospital systems, which are currently the default providers of treatment for many Australians with severe mental illness.
Building on this, the Australian Government will take a national leadership role in encouraging states and territories to improve their mental health systems and to ensure a better response to the needs of people with severe and debilitating mental illness so they stay well and lead functional lives. This includes accommodation support and the hospital interface, particularly emergency departments.
The investment in accommodation support under this National Partnership on mental health will complement the Government’s commitment to spending more than $5 billion to address homelessness, including building thousands of new homes for people who are homeless and increasing support services. Mental illness is both a risk factor and a potential outcome of homelessness, and this investment will help to break the cycle of homelessness among people suffering from severe mental illness.
Budget Measure: A National Partnership Agreement on Mental Health - $201.3 million over the next five yearsThe Commonwealth will negotiate a National Partnership Agreement with the states and territories (‘states’) to help improve state services, particularly in the priority areas of accommodation support and presentation, admission and discharge planning in emergency departments.
States will competitively bid for funds from a common pool, with funding not guaranteed for any state. This also recognises that where there are service gaps they are not uniform across states. Improvements will be measured according to clear outputs and outcomes.
Details will be negotiated with states, with the National Partnership to be finalised by COAG in 2011. COAG has agreed to consider mental health this year. This funding is not intended to fully fund the existing gaps in the system, but to provide an incentive to address known shortfalls and increase states’ accountability.
The measure will particularly benefit people with severely disabling, persistent mental illness, who are frequent users of emergency departments and need stable accommodation as a cornerstone to keeping well and breaking the cycle of hospitalisation and homelessness.