Today is a good day for the youth of Australia.
For many months, Australia’s top mental health professionals have been lobbying to keep youth mental health services afloat after the Federal Government announced new reforms to funding.
Following on from the Mental Health Commission’s review, which was released last year, the Government announced that as of July 2016, all Federally funded mental health services would be commissioned through the newly established local Primary Health Networks (PHNs). Each of the 31 PHNs across Australia will be able to apply for funding based on their local health needs; meaning that national mental health programs, such as those run through Headspace, would be disbanded.
Frank Quinlan from Mental Health Australia said that while he was pleased local communities would have greater say, he’s worried that the new programs won’t be ready before old programs were withdrawn; leaving at-risk patients without vital support.
Experts were particularly worried about early psychosis services, which provide necessary mental health care to those suffering and at high risk of developing psychosis. Psychosis is a serious mental health condition, which affects a person’s perception of reality and places them at higher risk of social isolation, unemployment and suicide. It is currently estimated to affect approximately 5000 Australian’s aged 18-24.
The current early psychosis services provide targeted treatments to those whose conditions are too complex to be managed by GPs, but not severe enough for already overstretched state mental health services. They focus on providing holistic care including medical treatment, as well as support securing housing, education and employment. Abandoning the current model means these people are likely to slip through the cracks.
World leading psychiatrist, Patrick McGorry AOM, who helped set up the National Youth Early Psychosis Program and Headspace, was outraged by the proposed changes and warned that if these services were withdrawn lives would most certainly be lost.
Originally, the government had planned to cut the programs $156 million dollar funding down to 75% next year and 30% the year after. With the funds being redistributed to PHNs based on the needs of their communities. Then it would ultimately be up to each PHN to decide whether they continue to fund these programs and to what degree. McGorry argued that there was been no evidence to suggest the new model of care would be more effective than the existing model, which since its inception has been adopted in Canada, the UK, Denmark and Hong Kong.
During an address to the National Press Club in Canberra earlier this month, Professor McGorry warned that abandoning the evidence based model in favour of the new approach, would lead to poor decision-making and inconsistent provision of care across each PHN.
Over the weekend The Sunday Telegraph urged PM Malcolm Turnbull to guarantee the future funding of the programs as part of their Can We Talk? Campaign, targeted at supporting youth mental health.
After months of backing the changes, last night Turnbull finally stepped up to the plate and announced on ABC’s Q&A this wethat after discussions with McGorry, the Government will be securing the funding of the 6 early psychosis services run through Headspace as well as the funding for the existing Headspace centers within each PHN.
Youth mental health: 1 – Turnbull also 1! See, when you support the youth of Australia everybody wins!
The Labor Party leader, Bill Shorten, has also pledged to back each of the 95 existing Headspace centers across Australia if voted into parliament in the upcoming election.
Well done lads, well done ?? ?? ?? ?? ??