Liberals commit $316million to address critical mental health funding shortfall

Zak Kirkup and the Liberals will commit $316million, if elected, as part of their plan to address the critical shortfall in community mental health funding across Western Australia.

The comprehensive plan includes significant investment in prevention programs, community support services, supported accommodation facilities and targeted youth and workforce programs.

“We know there is no one fix fits all when it comes to mental health and we can’t continue to try and solve this health crisis by focusing on hospital-based recovery,” Mr Kirkup said.

“We need early intervention and support, which is why the Liberals’ plan focuses on community-based and peer-led services in the hope we can help those suffering before they reach crisis point.

“Everyone we speak to tells us there just isn’t enough help between the front door and the emergency department.

“If you need help, if your kids need help, if one of your mates needs help, where do you go?

“Most people wind up at hospital, pleading with the doctors and nurses at Royal Perth or Fiona Stanley or Peel Health Campus for help.

“Some end up calling the police, because they’re desperate and don’t know where to turn. Parents, teenagers, doctors, mental health professionals have all told us we need more help between home and the hospital.

“We need the services in place when things get bad so we can deliver the help people need before things get desperate.”

Currently, one in five West Australians experiences a mental health disorder in any given year and in 2019, 418 people in WA died as a result of suicide-one of the highest rates in the country.

“That is 16 deaths for every 100,000 people in our state that could possibly have been prevented if we had better services and support systems on the ground to help,” Mr Kirkup said.

“Emergency departments are not always the best places for people in mental health distress, yet the majority of WA’s mental health funding is spent on inpatient hospital services. We can’t continue to keep trying to fix this major health problem with band-aid spending in hospitals.

The Liberals’ plan includes $80 million towards prevention programs, which includes a comprehensive state suicide prevention strategy with specific programs for youths and Aboriginal communities.

“Tragically, suicide was the cause of death for 24 per cent of those aged 15-24 years in 2019 and suicide rates in the Kimberley region are 3.5 times the national average,” Mr Kirkup said.

“Overall, deaths from suicide continue to rise each year and we, as a state, cannot simply sit by and continue to let this happen.

”If elected, the Liberals will also invest $76 million to increase the number of school psychologists in WA schools, $61 million in community support services and centres, $47 million in supported accommodation packages and $11million in peer support.

This includes funding for community-based drop-in neighbourhood centres specialising in early intervention and recovery, integrating employment specialists into mental health treatment teams and increased accommodation packages for those with both low-risk and complex needs.

“We will also develop six new peer-led crisis and recovery centres and establish a dedicated warm line, a 24/7 service where people can talk with a trained peer before they are in a crisis,” Mr Kirkup said.

“Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached with accessing services for mental health and those that don’t receive treatment and support are likely to experience relationship problems and disruptions in education and employment.

“If we can offer them a range of ways and places to access help early, it will improve the long-term outcomes as part of our plan for a safer, smarter today for a better, brighter tomorrow.”

Shadow Mental Health Minister Liza Harvey said a significant amount of funding would be spent on children and adolescents.

“Recent research into young people’s mental health found that 3 in 4 people with a mental illness developed symptoms before the age of 25 and very few sought treatment,” Ms Harvey said.

“Early intervention in childhood mental health issues is key to ensuring positive future outcomes, which is why the Liberals will commit $35 million towards expanding personal recovery programs and community support options and $10.75 million delivering 10 new Safe Haven alternatives to emergency departments.

“The safe haven centres will provide an alternative location where people in crisis can access quick and direct help from mental health specialists.

”A key part of the $316 million plan will be an additional $76 million to increase the number of school psychologists to provide schools in Western Australia with greater access to professional and individual face-to-face student support and counselling services.

“The mental health and wellbeing of students has become a critical focus for many schools, principals and staff to manage,” Shadow Minister for Education Donna Faragher said

“The need to strengthen the services offered to schools to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students is consistently raised within the education sector and community more broadly.

“We are committed to ensuring that students in schools in Western Australia have access to vital social, emotional, behavioural and learning support.”

The Liberals Plan includes:

Prevention and promotion

  • $45.5m to map and fill the gaps in mental health prevention services.
  • $35m to fund a comprehensive state suicide prevention strategy, with specific youth and Aboriginal suicide prevention plans.

Community support

  • $30.3m to expand personal recovery programs and community support options.
  • $10.75m to expand and fully fund 10 additional Safe Haven ED alternatives.
  • $8m to establish rural and remote neighbourhood drop-in centres.
  • $6.1m to integrate employment specialists into community mental health treatment teams.
  • $6.3m to review existing advocacy services and expand them to ensure state-wide access.

Peer Support

  • $5.5m to fund 6 Peer Led Crisis and Recovery Centres for people with high acuity and multiple unmet needs.
  • $5.2m to implement adolescent peer and family recover centres with warm lines.
  • $2m to establish a dedicated peer warm line.

Community Supported Accommodation

  • $35m to increase individual supported accommodation packages for those with lower needs.
  • $12m to increase individual supported accommodation for those with complex needs.

School psychologists

  • An additional $76 million over four years to increase the number of school psychologists to provide schools with greater access to professional and individual face-to-face student support and counselling services. It is expected to deliver around 100 FTE additional school psychologists who will be available to government schools.
  • The funding commitment incorporates an additional $36 million for Catholic Education WA and the Association of Independent Schools WA to also increase their school psychology services to schools within their respective sectors.

Youths

  • $35m to plan and fund the Young People Priorities for Action plan (Young People Priority Framework) to improve community treatment options for children and adolescents.

Workforce Development

  • $4 million to deliver workforce programs across the Youth Mental Health sector development team, Aboriginal sector development program and the Mental Health Sector

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