Victorian election: What are the major parties offering on mental health?

By Professor Patrick McGorry AO
Executive Director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Tagged:

health; election; policy Health; Election; Policy

Main points

Coalition promises:

  • $24 million for community mental health hub trials
  • $1.15 million to headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation for outreach
  • $6 million for a First Responders Support Fund to expand mental health support for members of Victoria Police, emergency services and ambulance workers.

Labor promises:

  • A royal commission into mental health at a cost of approximately $13.2 million
  • $50.4 million for mental health workers in schools
  • $1.5 million to expand the ANZAC centre which supports veterans’ mental health

Greens promises:

  • $200 million over four years to restore funding to Community Mental Health Services to provide care to people who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
  • $12 million to construct new youth dedicated clinical prevention and recovery care facility.
  • $48 million over four years for dedicated youth clinical services.

Context

Over the past two decades there has been a progressive disinvestment in Victorian Government funding for clinical mental health services, which has resulted in a mental health system that is demonstrably inadequate to respond to increased demand and the state’s growing population.

The Targeting Zero, report of the Review of Hospital Safety and Quality Assurance in Victoria also raised significant concerns regarding the system’s ability to provide effective, safe and high quality mental health care, even for those who can access it.

Emergency departments are overwhelmed with seriously mentally ill people, especially young people.

This crisis has led to substantial and growing numbers of preventable deaths and enduring disability among Victorians experiencing mental illness.

It is imperative that the next government and elected representatives respond. The 2018 election has provided all parties with an opportunity to tell Victorians just how they intend to do so.

Analysis

A royal commission into mental health

Labor has promised a royal commission into mental health if elected.

In making the announcement the Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged that the mental health system was essentially broken and that he believed a royal commission was the only way to generate sufficient public engagement and political momentum for the major redesign and very substantial funding required to fix it.

The Greens also support the royal commission, on the proviso that new funding and action are not stalled in the meantime.

To date the Coalition have been careful to say they do not rule out making a commitment for a royal commission, yet they indicate such a commitment may not be made until after the election, should they win.

Community mental health care

The situation has been particularly dire in community mental health services as the impact of the return of community mental health funding to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was felt.

In a pre-budget announcement in September, Labor announced $70 million over two years to fill this gap, including $50 million for services and $20 million to assist services adapt to the NDIS. However, there have been no additional funding announcements in the election period from Labor.

The Greens would provide $200 million over four years to restore funding to Community Mental Health Services impacted by the NDIS, almost double that provided through Labor’s pre-election commitment and aligned with the scale of what Mental Health Victoria’s Investing to Save report says is needed.

The Coalition has announced $24 million to trial three community mental health hubs in Frankston, Albert Park and Regional Victoria; although the logic for these locations and the time-frame for this investment is not clear.

Youth mental health

The Greens have made the strongest commitments so far, providing an additional $48 million over four years for specialist youth mental health care and $12 million for an additional Youth Prevention and Recovery Centre.

The Coalition has announced funding of $1.15 million for Victorian headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation services to deliver outreach which, while welcome, will not extend far across the nearly 30 headspace centres in the state.

Labor has made a commitment of $50.4 million over four years for mental health workers in schools.

Summary

Labor’s commitment to a royal commission into mental health can provide the impetus for the major system reforms and investment needed in Victoria.

However, as the Greens (also the Reason Party and Victorian Socialists) have identified, there also remains an urgent need to address the existing funding shortfall in clinical community mental health services.

The Coalition’s community hub trials provide a step in the right direction, however they will need to be adequately funded and delivered across the state.

Image credit: docentjoyce/Flickr

Coalition - Primary Policy Documents

Emergency Workers Support Headspace Mental Health Hubs

Labor - Primary Policy Documents

Veterans Support Mental Health Workers in Schools Royal Commission

The Greens - Primary Policy Documents

Mental Health

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health; election; policy Health; Election; Policy

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