State government urged to increase funding into regional mental health

Funding on mental health 'missed the mark'

The state government have 'missed the mark' with funding mental health community support services, according to relevant agencies.

The Mental Health Commission shows that in 2018/19 the government has only delivered 11,182 hours of community support services in the South West.

Community support services are non-clinical supports that help people's recovery, rights and opportunities.

The WA Association for Mental Health chief executive Taryn Harvey said the region needed 321,00 hours of community support services to meet the demand.

"The McGowan Government is falling dangerously behind on its own targets to fund community support services, meaning people are being turned away because demand is so high," she said.

"These figures show that even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, community support services were unable to cope, let alone during a pandemic when people weren't able to access treatment through hospital.

"We need five times as much community mental health support than is available for people when and where they need it."

Mental health minister Roger Cook said the government understood the need to support community groups within the sector.

"We know we need a strong community services sector, that can help people recover and manage their mental health, alcohol and other drug issues in the communities where they live," he said.

"The McGowan government is increasing investment in mental health, alcohol and drug community support services.

"Last financial year, we increased funding to community support services to $51.6 million - an 11 per cent increase since 2016/17.

"Through the Mental Health Commission, [the government] provides more than $11 million to non-government organisations for a range of mental health and alcohol and drug treatment services in the South West."

Community based mental health service Lamp Inc chief executive Lorrae Loud agrees with the association that the government have 'missed the mark' on providing adequate additional funding.

Lamp Inc chief executive Lorrae Loud.

Lamp Inc chief executive Lorrae Loud.

"We hear quite a lot about extra beds, but if there is no community services or enough community service supports when people are discharged it is not going to make any difference as most of the time people leave and their recovery is within the community," she said.

Ms Loud said the organisation has seen funding cuts to several of its programs, especially around centre based day to day community psycho social support and its mental health homelessness program.

When funding should be doubled, Ms Loud said some of the programs were being halved.

In 2018 the state government stopped its share of funding the homelessness program, Ms Loud said.

The program employed a full time staff member who travelled around Vasse and Warren Blackwood area and would work with people who had come out of a long stay in hospital and didn't have a home to go to.

"For 12 months the worker helps people find a home, learn life skills and rebuild relationships," Ms Loud said.

"Because of the funding cut, this program has gone from helping 20 people to 10."

Minister Cook said there was never a funding cut to the Lamp Inc program.

"The Mental Health Commission's grant funding contribution for the LAMP Homelessness Support Worker position ceased in 2018 in line with the end of the National Partnership Agreement current at the time," he said.

"We are continuing to invest and expand services in the South-West, including opening a community mental health step up/step down service in the region this year."

However, Ms Loud said the facility did not provide enough time for people to get back on their feet after leaving hospital.

"My understanding of the mental health step up step down facility is that if you were coming out of hospital, you could use the facility for 30 days before being settled back into the community," she said.

"It just isn't enough time.

"It shouldn't be a one size fits all approach and 12 months is more realistic."

As part of the call out, the association have released a The State Election Platform Manifesto which outlines what is needed across the state.

Ms Harvey said the manifesto was based on the stories of people who have experienced the WA mental health system through a series of co-design workshops and engagement.

"The solutions focus on urgently needed Government funding into community mental health and prevention services that keep people well before reaching crisis," she said.

Some of the WA government funded services in the South West include:

  • Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS), delivering alcohol and drug counselling to individuals and their families, prevention activities and diversion services. CADS services are available across the region from hubs based in Bunbury and Busselton;
  • The region has a total of 41 residential alcohol and drug treatment beds located at Brunswick and Nannup and three low medical withdrawal beds also located at Nannup;
  • Services for people living with mental health issues include personalised support, face to face counselling, family and carer support and supported accommodation services. Individual support packages are available for people with severe and persistent mental health issues through the Individualised Community Living Strategy.

If you need to talk to someone immediately, contact Lifeline on 13 14 11.