Mental care funds call
SHOW us the money.
That was the call from one of the Darling Downs' top health expert's yesterday.
Mental Illness Fellowship state branch chief Tony Stevenson's plea for more mental health funding was echoed across regional Queensland yesterday.
An APN special investigation today reveals 749 matters were heard in the Toowoomba Mental Health Review Tribunal sittings last financial year.
The sittings cover the Darling Downs including Warwick. The Mental Illness Fellowship, which provides support to hundreds of residents across the region each week, said a dearth of grassroots funding was leading to higher costs for hospitals.
It costs about $500,000 a year for someone to stay in a hospital mental health bed, but $7000 to $10,000 a year to help people manage psychological problems at home.
"We know from research that less than 50% of people who need help never get to the point where they know how to go to get help - so at least half the people are not even in contact with services," he said. "And the other 50% who are in contact often are not getting the services that they need."
Mr Stevenson said more housing, family and life skills support would reduce the move into clinical services for most people with mental health problems.
"On the one hand there are the clinical services that people need where they're going to get their diagnosis, their medication and their clinical regime and then there's the support that people need just to live well in the community," he said.
"There's quite a significant shortfall in funding. And of the funding that does go into mental health, about 80% of that goes into the clinical - your really high-cost end of mental health like the acute beds in hospitals. Only about 20% of the funding goes to the services where people can be supported in the community.
"And if we were to increase the funding in that area we'd actually reduce the need for the acute crisis-driven services - the more expensive services.
"So we need more funding and we also need a shift in that funding into community and preventative areas."
Mental Health Review Tribunal president Barry Thomas backed the call for more funding.
"Mental illness has always been the poor cousin, but over recent years it's received substantial inputs," Mr Thomas said.
"One and a half times as many people suicide every year as are killed in car accidents and another 60-odd thousand attempt suicide.
"It's not that everything needs the Rolls Royce (of funding) - we need well-targeted funds to deal with complex areas."
A spokesman for state Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government had invested $130.35million to progress 16 capital works projects providing 259 new or upgraded beds for acute and extended stay treatment.
"Combined with Commonwealth capital funding for an additional 99 beds, we will deliver nine new community care units across the state with completion expected by mid-2015," he said.
CCUs put people closer to home, family, friends and carers' support with less disruption to educational vocational social and community networks, he said.
At a glance
Authorised mental health services for the Darling Downs region
Forensic order reviews: 140151
Total matters: 749776
Source: 2013-14 Mental health Review Tribunal annual report