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Picking over the mental health sector spoils

Just 20 years ago, the federal government was perceived to have no role in mental health — it was seen as strictly states’ business. Fast forward to the 2011-12 budget and the announcement from Julia Gillard of a five-year funding commitment of $2.2 billion.

This was a significant win for a sector in tight financial times and one that had bipartisan support; after all, the Coalition claims credit for the government’s move — they argue Tony Abbott’s $1.5 billion pre-election pledge placed pressure on the government to step up to the plate.

But that’s just the start of the big noting when it comes to mental health reform — and the debate on how best to spend these billions has just begun. In the first of a four-part joint investigation with Inside Story, which kicks off today in Crikey and is titled Mind Games, health journalist and Croakey blogger Melissa Sweet surveys the long and often bitter road towards real reform.

Sweet examines why praise for the mental health package quickly dissipated — generating more negative than positive headlines — amid controversy around the Better Access program and the vitriol now aimed at advocates such as psychiatrists Ian Hickie and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry.

Health policy analyst Jennifer Doggett provides the most apt description of the post-budget bunfights to Sweet: “It’s partly just a function of what happens when you get a win. It’s like when a patriarch dies, and the will is read, and everyone starts squabbling.”

Read on as Crikey unpicks the family feud that’s only just beginning to heat up in the mental health sector …

4
  • 1
    dfgdgdf
    Posted Tuesday, 29 November 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t know much about what is going on in regards to mental health policy. Somehow though despite all the talk the number of psychologists visits you can claim from medicare has reduced. Which is ridiculously dangerous and foolish.

  • 2
    Posted Tuesday, 29 November 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to reading your report of this better late than never investment for the people struggling with mental illness. It’s vital with so much money being spent that FACTS are presented to see how things are going. Nothing is perfect, but we hope there is less harm than good.
    I for one, was glad to hear that the City of Ipswich in SE Qld is going to have a ‘Head Start’ youth project - if I had such a cool facility, with no stigma to enter when I had early signs of bi-polar I wouldn’t have ended up so affected by its course over many years, especially in study and employment.

    It is very common for people not to be properly diagnosed and treated until they are thirty something. By that time the kindling effect of each episode really does explode into acute illness and it takes years to recover.

    Kids today will be able to more fully achieve their potential with these kinds of services available.

  • 3
    Posted Tuesday, 29 November 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I can think of a parallel in relation to the green NGO movement after the NSW state election in March 1995, ngo and qango, were then played by the state ALP govt with various grants, duchessing, round tables, differential access, flattery and ruthless and sometimes subtle smears.

    In SE NSW/SE Victoria a million tonnes of woodchips from natural forest is generated every year for the last 15 years, drying out the landscape, hastening megafire conditions, and all the other ecological destruction that goes with it.

    Directly contrary to a state ALP promise.

    It’s a different policy area, but it’s the same political model used by major parties, not least the ALP machine and troublesome voices who may have created the political capital for the policy in the first place. That’s politics. It’s rough. No matter how idealistic the topic.

  • 4
    johnny
    Posted Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Mental health and psychiatry are trying to turn for the most, emotional , behavioral, situational, environmental,psychological, temporary problems, that require gentle guidance, maturation, and behavioral changes, into mental illnesses, that mental health forcefully incarcerate, poison, and eventually brutally electrocute, thats the bottom line.

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