Recession may speed up mental health reform

By Rob O'Brien
A recession may help governments speed up mental health reform, the chair of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health has told a conference in Sydney.

Addressing the conference 'Outside In: Community Responses to Complex and Diverse Needs', John Mendoza said that the fiscal pressures of a recession could help the Federal Government focus on badly needed reform in the mental health sector.

“During times of fiscal constraint, government revenues drop in recession… that’s when Australian governments engage in [more] serious reform or fundamental reform, than in prosperous times,” Mendoza said.

“In times of fiscal constraint governments don’t have that luxury and what they have to do is look for really genuine savings and how they can go about reform.”

The Victorian State Government announced a $150 million boost to kick-start major mental health reform in its budget on Tuesday including a $66 million, 120-bed mental health ward at Dandenong Hospital, 280 new mental health workers and several new programs to diagnose, treat and support children and adolescents with emerging mental health problems.

Mendoza told delegates of the Sydney conference that cash handouts favoured by the previous Federal Government had failed to implement necessary reform and that the financial crisis could bring much needed attention to policy areas in health that had been previously neglected.

“I have hope that we may, in the mental health sector and the community, benefit from that new fiscal reality shaping up,” he said.

The National Advisory Council on Mental Health was established last year as an election commitment by the Rudd Government.

The Council provides independent and confidential advice on mental health issues as requested by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon.

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