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Media Release: Federal budget 2021 response

The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) last night welcomed the Federal Government’s focus on mental health in the Federal budget but remained concerned that community supports, also known as psychosocial supports, received little investment or focus, despite being the most under-resourced part of the mental health system. 

WAAMH strongly welcomed commitments to suicide prevention and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health support; early years for children, parenting and perinatal support; peer workers and developing consumer and carer leadership through a planning process to develop a national consumer peak. 

However, WAAMH CEO Taryn Harvey said the community support sector would continue to advocate strongly to the WA State Government and the Federal Government for a significant boost to community support investment in the forthcoming National Partnership Agreement due in November.

“The strong focus on the mental health of Australians in the Federal Budget was a welcome indicator the Government is listening to the sector and people with mental health challenges, their carers, and families, and will go some way to addressing some of the shortfalls – however much more work is needed to prevent people from reaching crisis in the first place,” Ms Harvey said.

“COVID showed us how important the role of the community support sector was in mitigating and addressing the mental health distress of people when hospitals had to focus on the pandemic."

“We welcome the commitment for 15 new Head to Health Kids mental health hubs for under 12-year-olds, and we look forward to seeing the State and Federal Governments work together on addressing the child and adolescent mental health crisis in Western Australia particularly given we now see nearly 6000 children, adolescents and young people presenting to Emergency Departments every year.

“We need to see clear commitments to address the major gaps in supported accommodation services, and integrated treatment to community pathways inclusive of specific community support funding.

"Expansion of these programs will support people to transition to community from hospital, and to prevent hospital admissions and Emergency Department attendances in the first place." 

Ms Harvey said the new Adult Mental Health Centres were a treatment focused model, meaning this new program will not address people’s need for non-clinical community recovery support. 

“Without the much-needed investment into community support, adults will continue to experience high distress and will need to attend Emergency Departments and be admitted to hospital, when they could be better supported in the community,” she said.

Ms Harvey said the budget provided little in the way of targeted housing and homelessness support for people with mental health challenges. 

“This is a major gap in the system at present and a key contributor to people being stuck in hospital, when they should be supported to find a home and build their life as contributing citizens in the community,” she said.

Other key feedback:

Other than the continuing and new Headspace investment there seemed to be little focus on young people –this means that young people with higher support needs will still experience significant gaps in support. 

Focus on general rural and remote initiatives is light. While digital health is valuable for many (and is covered well in this budget), it should not be seen as a catch all for this cohort.