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Budget 2017: What it means for people living with a  mental illness

Health experts have widely welcomed the additional investment of $115 in mental health programs, services and research. However, this figure represents one of the smallest investments in mental health in recent years (compared to $5.5 billion in 2006 and $2.2 billion in new funding in 2011).

While this investment is a positive step, mental health in Australia remains significantly under-invested in. Funding for mental health services in Australia is under 6% of the total health budget. The burden of disease of mental illness is around 14%, and funding should be at that level. The World Health Organisation has said that funding for mental health services should be between 14 and 16% of the health budget. There is still much further to go in both mental health reform and investment in mental health.

Funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

This will be funded by increasing the income tax levy to ensure funding of the NDIS by 0.5% (from 2% to 2.5% of taxable income). One-fifth of revenue raised through the Medicare levy will be directed towards the NDIS savings fund. $209 million over 4 years will also be directed to the establishment of a NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

Psychosocial support services for people with mental illness: $80 million over 4 years

Guaranteeing funding for the NDIS will mean that the small minority of people with mental illness who are eligible for the scheme will receive all the support they need. However, one of the key issues facing people living with a mental illness and mental health organisations identified in the lead-up to the budget was what would happen to people with mental illness who were not eligible. 

Encouragingly, advocacy efforts by the mental health sector have paid off. These concerns were recognised with an $80 million investment in psychosocial support programs, contingent on the States and Territories matching this investment. This funding is unlikely to be sufficient given the numbers of people not accessing the scheme. 

Psychological services via telehealth for regional Australia: $9.1 million over 4 years

Under existing Medicare Benefits Schedule items, psychologists will be able to provide consultations via video for people living in eligible areas. 

Mental health research: $15 million over 4 years

This investment includes contributions to the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental health (Orygen) for research infrastructure and the Black Dog and Thompson Institutes for their work on prevention and early intervention. 

Other mental health-related funding changes in the 2017 Budget

  • $11.1 million over 3 years for suicide prevention support programs at high-risk locations
  • $9.8 million for pilot programs to improve mental health services for veterans and suicide prevention. 
  • $24 million to improve disability employment services.
  • $33.5 million for expanding services for Australian Defence Force members.
  • $1.2 billion for new and amended listings of medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
  • $1 billion for lifting the Medicare rebate freeze on certain items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
  • $375 million over three years to address homelessness, as part of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

 

To read more from the June 2017 eNews, click here

Dr Ellen Marks - General Manager Advocacy & Inclusion, One Door Mental Health

Dr Ellen Marks - General Manager Advocacy & Inclusion, One Door Mental Health