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  1. 1

    Ben Mullings

    The NMHC Report recommends that we redirect $1 billion in hospital-based mental health funding to community-based services. That will result in less hospital beds for acute mental health care. We all want a better mental health care system, but can we afford to make the problem worse at our psychiatric hospitals?

    My understanding is that the terms of reference for the NMHC Report prevented the Commission from recommending additional funding be directed to mental health. When we look at the cost of mental health conditions in terms of years of life lost, this represents 13% of all years of life lost due to health issues. Yet we only apportion 9.6% of our health expenditures to mental health. In terms of funding that difference equates to $5 billion (see http://drben.com.au/?p=522).

    We are not investing enough into mental health care in the first place. The danger of pulling funding from hospital-based mental health care in that context is that many people who reach a dire state will be turned away or discharged prematurely. Sadly that happens already, so we probably aren’t going to address that problem by taking even more funding away from acute psychiatric care in hospitals.

    In other words, part of the problem is robbing Peter to pay Paul in mental health care. Can’t we find another way?

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  2. 2

    Kristin Gillespie

    I find Professor Fells’ statement quite worrying. Take “this is about people with lived experiences of mental illness…” with “We know that worthwhile, productive reform will take time, and consultation and a collaborative approach between federal and state and territory governments, and NGO and community organisations is essential”: on the one hand the people with lived experience are supposed to be central to the process, and yet when it comes to mentioning stakeholders in reform they don’t so much as rate a mention (or carers/family) – just govts and organisations.

    Whilst this situation/attitude remains then quite frankly they can throw as much money as they like at MH and it won’t improve much. People with MI will continue to be treated like footballs by the mental health system until they are part of the process making and refereeing the rules. If you haven’t been there yourself you can’t really “get it”, and whilst no two people’s experiences are the same there is much in common across diagnoses and experiences which a non-sufferer is unlikely to “get”.

    And Ben I completely agree – “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not going to work. Too many are being turned away from acute care (and dying, or self-harming and surviving somehow) right now. Taking money out of this end to put it into early intervention is condemning many who are acutely ill to the scrap heap, in the hope of stopping more from getting there. Personally I am very much in favour of early intervention – it’s essential. But if people are dying now because acute care is inadequate (availability and often actual “treatment”) then even more people will die if they reduce the funding to this sector.

    The brief of no increase in funding for the sector is a poor joke on the part of govt, at the report’s commissioning.

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