Response from SANE Australia Chief Executive Officer Jack Heath:
“SANE Australia welcomes the federal government’s increase in mental health funding in the 2017 budget, in particular an additional investment of $115m in mental health programs, services and research.
We welcome the continued strong leadership from Health Minister Greg Hunt who is making mental health a key priority and has responded to concerns expressed by the mental health sector.
We are encouraged by the budget’s focus on psychosocial support for people with complex mental illness, especially those who may not qualify for the NDIS. It is a step in the right direction but we still have a way to go.
One of SANE’s longstanding concerns has been that hundreds of thousands of Australians living with complex mental illness could lose vital community-based supports as funding is transferred into the NDIS.
The budget has allocated some resources to specifically address this challenge but there is much more that needs to be done to guarantee that people living with complex mental illness are not left worse off as a result of the reforms.
In particular, state and territory governments need to come to the party and at least match this investment to ensure that those people living with complex mental illness do not miss out on the essential psychosocial supports that are essential to supporting recovery and ensuring people live a decent life.
SANE welcomes the additional investment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, including adding drugs which are used in the management of schizophrenia.
We know reducing access to means reduces the risk of suicide and so the government’s investment in small infrastructure projects through the suicide hotspot program should make a real difference.
SANE also welcomes the additional $350m boost to help veterans facing major mental health challenges. These mental health supports must factor in the key role of trauma and ensure that services are designed so that they are taken up by those who no longer have a connection to the armed forces.
SANE Australia notes that the draft Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Plan places a welcome emphasis on the need to reduce stigma for those living with severe and complex mental illnesses. This is an area that warrants substantial additional investment so that the progress we have made for conditions like depression and anxiety is also made with the more complex mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and eating and personality disorders.
The quarantining of the disability support pension for people who exhibit drug and alcohol abuse is highly problematic, especially as many of these people will have underlying mental health conditions. People need to get appropriate support, not be demonized.
SANE Australia looks forward to continuing to work closely with all levels of government to ensure that the four million Australians affected by complex mental illness enjoy better support, stronger connections, less discrimination and longer lives.”