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.
What's in the 2021-22 Budget
- $36.4 million in funding over 4 years for 57 mental health Response and Recovery Specialists in regional and rural NSW to provide assertive outreach support for communities, and coordination with local services at the time of a disaster or crisis, and during the ongoing recovery phase. This includes:
- 27 FTE Farmgate Counsellors and Drought Peer Support Workers to continue to provide outreach and coordination with local services and communities for 4 years.
- 30 FTE Disaster Recovery Clinicians across disaster affected areas, who will continue to work closely with primary health initiatives, community and welfare agencies and mental health services to provide direct care and respond to local community needs and issues on the ground. These positions are funded for 2 years.
- $109.5 million in funding over 4 years ($18 million in 2021-22) to set up 25 ‘Safeguards’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Response Teams to provide specialist mental health support to children and teenagers in every local health district.
- $25.8 million over 4 years to continue supporting the Police, Ambulance and Clinical Early Response (PACER) program which embeds mental health clinicians with first responders at the scene to provide specialist advice and appropriate care to people experiencing mental health episodes.
What does it mean for those doing it tough?
Regional and rural communities impacted by disaster will benefit from specialist outreach support and coordination with local services during and after a crisis. Funding for longer-term positions will mean counsellors, peer support workers and clinicians will be able to be embedded in and support communities for longer, which is important throughout recovery.
The new ‘Safeguards’ teams will provide much-needed specialist and wraparound support to young people across the state. This will help fill some of the service gaps for young people with mental health needs too complex for primary care but not appropriate for acute care within hospital environments.
What is needed?
The Safeguards initiative is a welcome announcement, although there is a risk that $109.5 million is a relatively small commitment to run 25 teams across the state over four years. NCOSS also understands that the Safeguards teams will work with patients over 6-8 weeks then transition them into longer-term mental health community-based supports. It is unclear whether additional resources will be provided to these community-based supports to manage additional clients. NCOSS looks forward to the NSW Government working closely with the community mental health sector to ensure the new Safeguards initiative can be implemented feasibly.
Budget responses from the sector:
- NCOSS 2021-22 Pre-Budget Submission
- Mental Health Coordinating Council Position Paper
- A Wave of Disadvantage Across NSW: Impact of the COVID-19 recession