Backwards step in mental health services as commission absorbed back into health

Oct 24, 2022 | Libby Mettam MLA, State News

The WA Labor Government’s move to dissolve mental health funding into the health budget is a backward step for the sector, according to the Opposition.

The Independent Review of WA Health was released following the resignation of the Mental Health Commissioner and ahead of Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

“It’s appalling that the Minister for Health has seemingly taken the opportunity of a focus on the Federal Budget to try to bury this significant change for one of the state’s most vulnerable sectors,” Shadow Minister for Health Libby Mettam said.

“It begs the question, what is the government trying to hide?

“While we are yet to see the government’s response to this review, it is clear that there are real concerns about what this committee has recommended given the limited mental health background amongst the panel.

“Diminishing the role of the Mental Health Commission and seeing mental health compete with hospital funding in this way is a significant blow to this sector.

“This also flies in the face of a submission made by the WA Association for Mental Health to the Sustainable Health Review which underlined the importance of an independent Mental Health Commission – this move represents just the opposite.

“There is fear this will represent the first step away from contracting with the not for profit or community sector to bring more mental health services in-house.

“Many of these agencies are already battling significant gaps in funding amid a sharp increase in demand for services during the past couple of years. This move will no doubt create further stress to those agencies already trying to do more with less for some of the State’s most vulnerable.”

The 2021-22 annual report from the Chief Psychiatrist tabled earlier this month reported 5.6% of attendances at an emergency department were for a mental health issue.

The total number of people that received mental health care in the WA public health system in 2021, through inpatient and community care services, was 66,483.

More than 20 per cent of those were children.