Care for severe, complex, and chronic mental health conditions overlooked in Budget
10 May 2023
Australians experiencing the most serious mental health conditions, with severe, complex and chronic presentations have missed out on vital support in this year’s Federal Budget, says the peak body for psychiatrists.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra has stated while there are some positive measures for mental health, funding is heavily weighted to wellbeing initiatives and primary care.
“People experiencing the most severe and complex mental health conditions need specialist psychiatric care,” said Associate Professor Lakra.
“A particular group of concern is children. Around 3 in 4 children with a severe mental health disorder are missing out on critical support.”
“We estimate that of the 80,000 children in Australian with a severe mental health condition, only 22,000 are currently being seen by a psychiatrist. We need more child and adolescent psychiatrists in the pipeline to meet the needs of this vulnerable group during their most formative years,” said Associate Professor Lakra.
Affordability is the foundation of a strong mental health system. Around 18% of Australians needing to see a psychiatrist report missing the services due to cost.
“The $3.5 billion investment to triple bulk billing incentives for GP consultations will be a welcome relief for many Australians.
“For Australians experiencing financial disadvantage, the cost of seeing a psychiatrist can mean delaying receiving a diagnosis or care. Increasing the bulk-billing incentive to 100% is critical for ensuring equitable access to mental health care as identified in our pre-budget submission.
“There is a strong rationale to extend bulk-billing provisions for psychiatric care.”
“No one should have to make difficult decisions between accessing care and other basic necessities.”
The RANZCP has welcomed a number of measures:
- $260.2 million over two years from 2023–24 to extend Commonwealth psychosocial supports for people with severe mental illness who are not in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
- $0.9 million over two years from 2022–23 to develop a 10 Year National Action Plan to support the health and wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Asexual (LGBTIQA+) people and establish a LGBTIQA+ Health Advisory Group.
- $40.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to establish the National Clinical Quality Registry Program for tracking the safety and performance of treatments and devices, thereby improving performance reporting for clinicians and hospitals.
- $4.9 billion over 5 years from 2022–23 (with $1.3 billion per year ongoing) to increase support for people receiving working age payments including the JobSeeker Payment. As noted in the College’s submission to the Senate Inquiry into poverty in Australia, we urged for an increase to the allowance rate for Australians accessing government-funded payments, including JobSeeker.
Professor Lakra added: “We previously recommended, during the NDIS review, that the lack of services outside of the NDIS needed to be addressed.
“We called for psychosocial support services to be delivered outside the NDIS and welcome the $260.2m announced in the Federal Budget to deliver this vital service for people needing mental health support.
“The College welcomes the $0.9m pledged to support a 10 Year National Action Plan for LGTIQA+ communities as this will reduce discrimination and marginalisation and the risk of these communities developing mental health issues.
“We are also pleased at the increased support for the cost-of-living pressures many Australians are facing. Poverty is linked to poorer mental health outcomes.”
‘We urge the Government to include a National Clinical Registry for psychedelic-assisted therapy, which is vital for the expansion of the evidence base in this emerging area to ensure patient safety and treatment efficacy.
“We look forward to working closely with the Federal Government to improve mental health care for all Australians, but in particular, those with the most severe, complex and chronic presentations,” said Associate Professor Lakra.
ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call +61 437 315 911, or email email@example.com.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.
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