The NSW mental health system is overly complex and difficult for consumers and carers to navigate. Communities lack access to timely, affordable, community-based mental health and psychosocial support services. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of people are turning up in emergency departments or homelessness services with significant mental health difficulties.
For young people, mental health is the most frequently nominated issue of concern, with suicide the leading cause of death. Among the worst affected by COVID-19, poor mental health in NSW citizens aged 20-24 is projected to increase by up to 17% by June 2021 due to rising unemployment, with some regions of NSW experiencing increases of over 40%.
What's in the 2020-21 Budget
- $46.8 million in new funding over 4 years to support student wellbeing by recruiting an additional 100 wellbeing and in-reach nurses in schools.
- $66.2 million over 3 years from 2021-22 to continue the additional specialist mental health clinicians to enhance the capacity of community mental health services and expand youth mental health services.
- $66.5 million in 2020-21 to support mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19, including additional mental health clinicians and peer workers, and increasing capacity and responsiveness of the Mental Health Line and expanding virtual mental health services.
- $50.4 million over 3 years from 2021-22 for more remote video conferencing and telehealth services to enable more access to mental health support for people in immediate crisis.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
Young people will be able to seek more mental health support in school-based settings and from youth mental health services in the community.
More people will be able to access mental health support within the community and avoid hospitalisation. People who are less able to access face-to-face services, for example those in regional NSW, will also benefit from the increased funding for video and telehealth mental health supports.
What is needed?
While this additional funding is welcome, the NSW Budget falls short of the additional $100 million per year funding boost for community-based mental health needed for NSW investment to be in line with the national average. NSW desperately needs a significant boost in funding to fill the ‘missing middle’ of mental health and psychosocial services between primary care and hospitals.
Investing an additional $335 million in community-based mental health services per year would place NSW ahead of other Australian jurisdictions. This funding would help provide for additional ‘step-up, step-down’ places across NSW to reduce hospitalisations and enable people discharged from hospital to better transition back into the community. This is a current gap in vital service provision missing from this Budget. It would also provide for the establishment of community mental health hubs providing wraparound supports, so people with mild to moderate mental health needs can access the right support at the right time.
Budget responses from the sector:
- NCOSS 2020-21 Pre-Budget Submission
- Mental Health Coordinating Council Investment Priorities for the 20-21 NSW Budget
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession