Too many people with mental health issues are forced to rely on emergency departments because of a lack of community mental health services that could intervene early, CEO of the Mental Health Coordinating Council, Carmel Tebbutt, said in response to health data released today.
New data released by the Bureau of Health Information reveals that most people with mental health issues find it challenging to get care outside hours, and when they go to an emergency department they spend more time there than people without a mental health issue.
“Our own research shows that expanding community mental health services would improve outcomes for people living with mental health conditions and reduce hospital admissions,” Ms Tebbutt said.
“Today’s Bureau of Health data shows that NSW needs to lift investment in community mental health services so people get the support they need, when they need it, rather than waiting for a crisis to occur,” Ms Tebbutt said.
“We need more Step-up Step-down places, supported living services and community mental health hubs with a range of co-located services.”
The Bureau of Health Information data shows that 63% of adults with a mental health issue find it difficult to get care outside of office hours, compared to 44% of adults without a mental health issue. The data shows that 40% of people with a mental health issue spend longer than 4 hours in an emergency department, compared to 27% of people without a mental health issue.
The report compiles data on the NSW mental health system, highlighting areas for improvement and areas where the system does well. NSW has one of the highest rates of adults with mental health issues who discuss causes of stress with their care provider, compared to other countries.
Ms Tebbutt said the number of people with mental health issues presenting to emergency departments continues to grow at a faster rate than overall emergency department presentations. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the number of mental health related emergency department presentations grew by 18% compared to an overall growth in emergency department presentations of 11%.
“Governments, both state and federal, need to work together to invest in targeted community mental health services which would improve the lives of people with mental health conditions, reduce pressure on emergency departments and save money,” Ms Tebbutt said.
A Productivity Commission Report Government on Services released earlier this year shows NSW spends less than 7 percent of its mental health budget on non-government organisations.