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Small steps on suicide welcomed, much more still outstanding- Greens

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 27 Jul 2010

The Australian Greens say the Government’s response to the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry on Suicide and Suicide Prevention chaired by Senator Rachel Siewert is to be welcomed, but note there are many more recommendations in the Senate Standing Committee’s report which have not been supported.

“The Hidden Toll report found significant investment in suicide prevention and mental heal services was needed, and it’s disappointing that many of these recommendations aren’t being addressed,” Senator Rachel Siewert, said today.

“This package of measures increases spending on suicide prevention efforts from around $20m per annum to over $70m per annum over the forward estimates. It is well short of the recommended investment from the all-party Senate Report,” said Senator Siewert.

“We’ve spoken with mental health experts like John Mendoza and they tell us it is a grab bag of modest investments in a number of worth initiatives, but it is not reform.

“These announcements are patches hastily attached to a broken system. They will not change the access to care or the outcomes for the millions of Australians missing out on quality mental health services.

“According to the experts these announcements are too small to make a difference. The increased psychiatry services ($22m over 4 years) represents less than 2% of the current expenditure on Medicare psych services.

“The $60m for support services represents just $15m per annum in an area where the Federal Government already spends some $160m per annum and the states and territories nearly double this.

“The announcement represents less than 10% of the Federal Government commitment and just 3% of current national spending. The $9m for the suicide hotspots will only build facilities at 3 or 4 hotspots like the Gap in Sydney. It is simply not the significant funding that we know is needed for mental health reform,” said Senator Siewert.

The Australian Greens mental health package calls for:
• $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.

“A much more comprehensive and joined-up approach to mental health services and suicide prevention is urgently needed if we are to make a serious dent in this growing toll,” concluded Senator Siewert.

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