The Australian Greens today urged federal and state leaders to boost mental health services and work towards a national, universal public dental care scheme amid the debate about the mechanism for health funding at Sunday's Council of Australian Governments meeting.
"Australia deserves a robust, community-based system of mental health care," said Greens health spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert. "People need mobile crisis intervention, 24-hour staffed community residential and respite houses, mobile community treatment teams, and a range of psychological, family and vocational support."
More than 20% of Australians will experience some form of mental disorder in any given year. More than two million people will suffer from mild mental illness - mild depression, anxiety - and about 500,000 will have a more severe illness resulting in taking time off work.
"Also, access to dental services, and more funding for preventative care, can only lift overall well-being and could save money," Senator Siewert said.
"It makes no sense for universal dental care to be excluded from our public health system," Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown said. "The Menzies Centre estimated dental problems already cost Medicare around $350 million and poor oral health costs Australia a further $2 billion per year."
"People who can't afford high private dentist fees endure waits of 12 months or longer to see a public dentist in NSW. In rural or regional areas even accessing a private dentist can take months," Senator Brown said.