Poor planning blamed for mental health underspend
BUREAUCRATIC inefficiencies in the Federal and State health departments have been blamed for a massive underspend of funding for mental health programs.
Three leading mental health academics claim millions of dollars are languishing within the system, with the Federal Government spending just $87.3 million – or just 4.6% – of the total $1.9 billion funding allocated under the COAG National Action Plan on Mental Health in 2006.
Report author Professor Ian Hickie, executive director of the Brain & Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, said poor planning and a lack of understanding meant the money wasn’t spent on what was required to deliver mental health outcomes.
“The bureaucratic system we have used is an abject failure and is the system still in charge. Now we are giving the money back. The $1.9 billion has already decreased to $1.7 billion, and we can assume in this year’s Budget it will fall again,” he said.
Health departments were still focused on acute hospital care, or traditional primary care such as the Better Access system, Professor Hickie said.
“For people in those systems, they may well be getting better care, but there’s no more people being treated.” Early intervention programs were being ignored, he added.
Co-author Sebastian Rosenberg, deputy CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia, said 10 years of mental health reform has not led to an increase in penetration of services and care into the community.
“People with mental illness have not found the COAG spending has meant a significant increase in their access to care,” he said.
As MO went to press, the Federal Health Department had not responded to queries.