In a Budget that forecasts slower overall growth and a reduction in “back office” staff, mental health funding has remained steady. The NSW 2019/20 Budget provides $2.1 billion for mental health services and $72.7 million for capital expenses. Mental health services expenditure remains 9% of the overall health budget in 2019/20.
MHCC CEO Carmel Tebbutt said: “It is pleasing to see the promise to increase funding for suicide prevention services realised with $19.7 million provided in 2019/20. The funding will support a range of initiatives and MHCC hopes to see more community-based services and an expansion of alternatives to presenting at hospital emergency departments.
Additional funding for mental health drought support workers as part of the Emergency Drought Relief Package will provide much needed assistance for rural and regional communities doing it tough as a result of the drought.”
Ms Tebbutt also welcomed the continuation of the $700 million State-wide Mental Health Infrastructure Program. In the 2019/20 Budget, $22.3 million has been provided to commence planning for specialised mental health services for mothers and their children. This includes a new mother and baby unit at Westmead and Royal Prince Alfred Hospitals and a new child and adolescent mental health unit at Nepean Hospital.
“This is the second year of this program and MHCC will press the Government for more detail about the full ten-year program, particularly the plans to enhance step-up and step-down capacity in the community promised in last year’s budget.”
The State-wide Mental Health Infrastructure Program requires ongoing scrutiny as the Budget Papers show that despite the demonstrable need for improved mental health infrastructure, only $14.7 million of the $20 million allocated in 2018/19 was spent.
Ms Tebbutt said: “While the Budget provides for the expansion of some important services, MHCC will continue to advocate for a rebalancing of the mental health system to provide more services in the community so that people living with mental health conditions and their families can get the support they need when they need it.”