Budget holds back on mental health reforms

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

‘While mental health investments in tonight’s Budget will improve access to care, it is disappointing that the Australian Government did not use Budget 2020 as an opportunity to implement mental health reforms proposed by the Productivity Commission, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘The Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health draft report of 2019 recommended community-based mental health services delivered within regions, particularly for the ‘missing middle’ for whom current services are not able to respond effectively.

‘The Commission suggested either “renovating” services currently commissioned by the 31 Primary Health Networks in Australia, or “rebuilding” by setting up a totally new structure to coordinate and deliver such services.

‘While the Commission favoured the latter, at AHHA we strongly support the PHN model, as the structures are already in place, and headway is being made in improving health outcomes.

The Productivity Commission delivered a final report to the Australian Government on 30 June 2020, but the government has not yet tabled it in the Parliament, although they are compelled to do so within 25 sitting days of receipt.

‘We hope that when the Government responds to the report, they will look beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic to the ongoing long-term need for community mental health services’, Ms Verhoeven said.

‘The challenges will be severe as people try to deal with job losses and economic insecurity, which can lead to emotional insecurity and ongoing mental health issues. The cuts to Job Keeper and Job Seeker will only compound these problems, which are likely to be long-term for many.

‘We urge the Australian Government to “go hard and go now” in the interests of building a more efficient and accessible mental health system’, Ms Verhoeven said.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media contact: Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive, 0403 282 501