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Greens point to unanswered questions in health debate

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 11 Aug 2010

Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens Health spokesperson says say today’s health debate left many unanswered questions about provision for mental illness and preventive health initiatives in Australia.

“Minister Roxon says mental health can’t be addressed without strengthening GPs and superclinics, e-health and Medicare Locals. This government’s record on building superclinics is poor – with just three built since 2007 despite their promise to build 36,” said Senator Rachel Siewert.

“At this rate will we be waiting another 25 years before this government makes any significant contribution to mental health?” asked Senator Siewert.

 “The Greens’ mental health plan has been described by mental health specialists as the only ‘national program that resets the balance of services systematic  community care, [which] both major parties are capable of coming on board with’.

“We’re calling for a new Minister for Mental Health and additional funding of at least $350 million per year for mental health over the next four years, and are committed to:
- $100m per year incentives at the primary care level to target those in need, the vulnerable and long-term clientele working within the community and NGO sector;
- $150m per year for early intervention mental health programs including Headspace and early psychosis prevention services;
- $100m per year for alternatives to emergency department treatment such as multi-disciplinary community-based sub-acute services that supports 'stepped' (two-staged) prevention and recovery care.

“Nicola Roxon also made no new commitment on alcohol preventative measures, despite reports this week indicating the problem is growing in our community,” Senator Siewert said.

“On the other hand, the Coalition has now promised some of its $1.5b million mental health budget will go to tackle alcohol problems, which leaves us wondering how many other health priorities will the opposition use that funding for?

“The Greens will introduce a junk food and alcohol levy, with revenue being directed to a Health Promotion Fund overseen by the National Preventive Health Agency.

“Both the Government and Coalition need to realise that the Greens approach to health is the right one to take - that permanently improving Australia’s health system requires strong investment in both mental and preventative health,” Senator Siewert concluded.

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