Budget provides first steps but long way ahead for mental health

22 June 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has welcomed the $163 million mental health package handed down in the South Australian State Budget 2021-22 as a good start and a promising sign, however emphasised much more will be needed to fix the system.

With South Australia’s mental health system on the brink of collapse, the SA Government’s announcements in the Budget are a small first step toward addressing the problem, explained RANZCP SA Branch Chair, Dr Paul Furst.

‘It’s good to see the government finally showing us they’re willing to start addressing the poor state of our mental health system, however we are disappointed that they didn’t do more’, said Dr Furst.

‘The additional Psychiatric Intensive Care beds will help reduce some of the immediate pressures on the system and are something that we welcome, but we asked for 136 extra mental health beds and they gave us eight.

‘The supported housing for people with mental health disabilities is likewise sorely needed – although I’m not sure how far $5 million will go.

‘Finally, this Budget recognises the need for filling mental health workforce vacancies, upskilling the existing workforce and more investment in drug and alcohol, child and adolescent, forensic and other mental health services – and we welcome that.

‘On paper today’s Budget sounds nice but it’s just the government forging ahead with their own plan, providing bandaids and quick fixes, without listening to what’s needed.

‘Not nearly enough is going to be spent on the things that are important and their biggest spend is on something we didn’t ask for and won’t improve the ramping crisis in our emergency departments.’

The next step, said Dr Furst, was building up greater rehabilitation capacity in the system and taking steps to address some of the key contributors to people needing hospital care.

‘Even with these announcements we are still facing a major shortage of recovery and rehabilitation-focused mental health beds, as well as the doctors, nurses and allied health professionals required to provide proper care for people.

‘We asked them to invest in patient recovery and to improve service flow and discharges but instead they have remained focused on crisis and crisis response, failing to invest in rehabilitation and community support.

‘Until those issues are fixed, we will continue to see bed block, emergency department overcrowding, ambulance ramping and staff burnout.

‘Likewise, South Australia needs comprehensive strategies to address drug and alcohol abuse, particularly methamphetamine, and social housing shortages.

‘However, despite those not being addressed in this Budget, it will give people hope that more meaningful change is yet to come.

‘This week the Government has indicated they are willing to start taking the concerns of the mental health sector seriously, and the Opposition has done the same.

‘We look forward to working with both of them, in the lead up to the election next year, to help shape a comprehensive vision to rebuild our mental health system into one the people of South Australia can depend on to support them, as they deserve.’

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.