The NSW Budget, handed down this week, has failed to deliver critical funding for the state’s mental health sector, say a group of organisations representing mental health consumers, carers and workers.
While the group welcomes investments to address the social determinants of mental health, including new funding into housing and homelessness, disaster recovery, education and healthcare, there is a noticeable lack in new funding for mental health services.
“Mental health services in NSW are stretched beyond capacity, frontline mental health workers are burnt out, and, most importantly, people who need mental health care now have to wait longer and pay more out of pocket to get the help they need,” says Samuel Harvey, Executive Director and Chief Scientist at the Black Dog Institute.
Prior to the NSW election, CEOs from the group’s member organisations warned that the NSW mental health system was on the brink of crisis. Its individual members have continued to advocate the Minns Government for increased mental health funding since it had taken office, including with Health Minister Ryan Park and Mental Health Minister Rose Jackson.
“The Minns Government had the opportunity and capacity, in their first Budget, to provide support to the more than 1.3 million people in NSW who live with mental health challenges. So far, it has failed to do so. Urgent reform is required now. The longer reform takes, the more people will fall through the cracks, and the more costly it will be,” says Priscilla Brice, CEO of BEING – Mental Health Consumers, the peak body for mental health consumers in NSW.
NSW currently invests the least into mental health services per capita, compared to all other Australian States and Territories, and is the only State where mental health spending per capita has decreased in the past decade.
“The lack of funding for mental health reform in this first Labor budget was a lost opportunity to do some real good. When new funding is made available, the extent of the problem will be that much greater due to the lack of attention in this first Labor budget,” says Matt Ireland Acting President of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.
Despite mental health representing 13% of NSW’s total burden of disease, funding for mental health only services represent just 7% of NSW’s total health budget, meaning there is not enough funding to meet current demand. This figure is unchanged since the commencement of ‘Living Well’ the ‘Strategic Plan for Mental Health’ developed by the NSW Mental Health Commission nearly 10 years ago.
Demand for mental health services continues to increase, year on year, before and after the COVID pandemic. Since 2003, people experiencing high to very high psychological distress increased from 10% of the NSW population to 17%. This equates to more than 570,000 additional people who need mental health care in NSW, with less funding per person to provide it.
Mental health organisations are asking the Government to:
1. Conduct an independent gap analysis of State-funded mental health services in NSW to identify funding and workforce gaps, including providing a clear view on service demand and role vacancies in NSW;
2. Allocate funding for mental health proportionate burden of disease, with year-on-year funding increases based on projected population growth and predicted demand;
3. Develop a reoccurring revenue stream to provide dedicated ongoing funding for mental health services, which may include implementing a Mental Health Payroll Tax Surcharge for companies with total Australian wages of more than $100 million, similar to that implemented in Victoria and Queensland.
We are an alliance of peak bodies representing mental health workers, consumers and carers across New South Wales, to call for urgent reform and investment in mental health services and champion system reform and redesign.
Organisations supporting this statement include:
Australian College of Mental Health Nurses
Australian Medical Association (NSW)
BEING – Mental Health Consumers
Black Dog Institute
Mental Health Carers NSW
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Jessica Meades / 0423 938 166 or email@example.com