Reasearch reveals nation's mental health cost blow-out

THE real costs of mental health services in Australia are at least $28.6 billion, or more than three times official government estimates, new research revealed on Wednesday.

Funded by Beyondblue and Medibank, the mental health expenditure analysis showed the real cost of providing mental health services in hospitals, jails and the wider community.

It provides a more extensive analysis of cost of mental health on governments, the private sector and Australian's own spending.

The report found spending on mental health was equal to 2.2% of Australia's gross domestic product in 2010-11, including more than $13 billion on direct health costs.

Nationally, public mental health services cost $3.5 billion, private costs came to $402 million, medications cost $1.2 billion, and drug and alcohol services cost $4.6 billion in 2010-11.

Medibank executive Dr Matthew Cullen said the critical issue was that people were not getting appropriate services because the mental health system was fragmented and uncoordinated.

"People fall between the gaps of the healthcare system and the social services systems, and even between the various components of the social services system such as housing and income support," he said.

"We need to address these gaps urgently. While governments since the 1990s deserve credit for lifting the effort, we can do much more to coordinate care for our mentally ill."

Beyondblue chief executive Kate Carnell said the report highlighted the urgent need for reform of the mental health system, to ensure services were delivered properly.

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