Government Mental Health Investment Explained & COVID-19 Taskforce
On 9 June, the State Government announced a $56 million mental health package. We’ve spent some time reviewing that and getting some more information to understand what it means for investment in prevention and community support. The package included $6 million of funding in response to COVID-19.
While the Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) supports and welcomes increased investment in the sector, it is disappointing that government continues to focus exclusively on services at the crisis end.
Prevention and early intervention supports, which can keep people well in their homes and communities before crisis, have been overlooked and remain underfunded. This results in an ongoing lack of recovery pathways for people from intensive services through to greater independence at a time when building capacity in the community to keep people away from hospital is more important than ever.
The Government also announced its long awaited accommodation and support strategy, A Safe Place. WAAMH and our members made a significant contribution to the development of this strategy so we are very pleased that it has finally been released.
WAAMH continues to advocate for our members and has focussed our ‘balancing the system’ message and Prevent Support Heal campaign as a platform to support the COVID-19 social, economic and health recovery efforts.
New community bed-based services announced
The Minister for Health announced $25 million for a 16-bed youth transitional supported accommodation service, that would support young people with co-occurring mental health and alcohol and other drug issues. Young people experiencing significant distress would be able to access the service for a 1 to 2 year period. The $25 million is an investment of new funds over 4 years, and includes funds for developing a purpose-built facility. The service is expected to be operational in 2023.
The Minister also announced $25 million for a Community Care Unit, providing 20 residential, community-based beds for adults. Focused on enabling people to be discharged out of hospital and into the community, it will be targeted to people with severe mental health issues and be supported by a significant component of clinical in-reach. The Mental Health Commission (MHC) anticipates that a suitable facility will be identified for lease, and so this funding does not include capital for building design and build.
Both services fall under the community bed-based stream of the 10 Year Plan, where an increase in services is needed - from 6% of the service mix at the start of the Plan to 10% of the service mix by 2025.
WAAMH supports the development of and increase in community bed based services, but is disappointed that once again the only new investment is targeted at people just before or after a crisis, rather than putting in place earlier supports to reduce the development of those crises. This is also a missed opportunity to develop the range of supported accommodation services needed by consumers that will best support recovery as their needs change over time.
WAAMH looks forward to hearing more details about the service model, and expects that there will be robust opportunities for community co-design.
A Safe Place Accommodation and Support Strategy
'A Safe Place, A Western Australian strategy to provide safe and stable accommodation, and support to people experiencing mental health, alcohol and other drug issues 2020-2025’ has been released. This long-awaited, high-level strategy, importantly supported by the Department of Communities, sets out the Government’s aims to support people’s timely access to accommodation and support.
It sets out a range of actions under 5 key focus areas:
• Safe, stable, appropriate, affordable, long term accommodation.
• Strategic, collaborative partnerships.
• Contemporary housing and support models.
• Planning, education and training.
• Standardised data and relevant research.
The two residential services announced on 9 June are linked to this Strategy.
WAAMH will continue our advocacy for urgent and much greater government investment in the full range of accommodation options needed, as safe, stable and appropriate housing is the foundation for recovery.
COVID-19 mental health service support
The Minister also announced $6 million in funding for COVID initiatives. A detailed breakdown of this funding has not yet been provided for public release but WAAMH has made a request for this to occur. This funding has already been allocated and includes some funding that has already been announced, such as for the update to the Think mental health campaign. The package investment for community support services is very limited, but includes welcome investment for multicultural service adaptation, addition youth residential supports, psychiatric hostel additional support and older adult residential support.
This investment to support mental health services respond to the pandemic is very limited compared to investments in community mental health support by other states and territories and has taken significantly longer to be announced. With a looming increase in mental health issues and suicide expected as the community bears the brunt of the impact of COVID-19, much greater investment is urgently needed.
WAAMH is hopeful that other measures that we have developed with the MHC will be included in the Government’s immediate COVID recovery investments. We continue to advocate for a longer term strategy that will plan for the looming mental health crisis that the Mental Health Minister acknowledged this week.
Mental Health/AOD COVID-19 Taskforce - Advocacy update
The Mental Health/AOD COVID-19 Taskforce convened by the Mental Health Commission has ceased and is being transitioned for a new purpose focussed on recovery. The format and terms of reference for this new group are yet to be decided.
WAAMH continues to advocate for our members and has focussed our ‘balancing the system’ message and Prevent Support Heal campaign as a platform to support the COVID social, economic and health recovery efforts.
WAAMH was very actively involved in the MH/AOD taskforce and played a lead role in facilitating sector scenario planning on behalf of the taskforce, resulting in the development of a specific proposal for a sector support platform. We understand that that proposal will be presented to government as part of a suite of measures to support the COVID-19 recovery effort. The proposals was also submitted to Lottery West for consideration as part of their COVID-19 grants processes.
WAAMH also led a taskforce subgroup in partnership with the MHC focussed on developing proposals to help keep people experiencing distress out of hospital. A briefing note and several proposals were delivered through this process including targeted investment in the NGO sector to respond to acuity and work in partnerships with HSPs. WAAMH understand that these proposals are also being submitted to Government as part of the immediate recovery response.
A second sub-group focused on NGO capacity to respond to additionally vulnerable groups was lead by our colleagues at WANADA.