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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1753

Mental Health

Dear Mrs Wicks,

I refer to your letter of 5 December 2017 on behalf of the Standing Committee on Petitions, concerning petition number EN0360. I regret the delay in responding.

The petition sought a moratorium on the Commonwealth Government's investment of $73 million to ensure Australian children and young people receive the support they need during their school years. The petition's author expressed concern that this would enmesh mental health services and drug treatment with education services.

The Government's National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program (the Program) was announced in response to the National Mental Health Commission's Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services. Under the Program, Emerging Minds is funded $18.7 million to deliver the National Workforce Support in Child Mental Health initiative, which will assist clinical and non-clinical professionals and services who work with children to identify, support and refer children at risk, and to promote resilience building. The Program also includes funding of $52.6 million to beyondblue, in partnership with headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation and Early Childhood Australia, to develop and implement the Mental Health in Education program, which will provide information, advice and support to teachers and childhood workers to support promotion and prevention activities and to help build resilience skills in children and young people. The Program does not include or promote drug treatment for mental health issues.

The petition also raised concerns about involuntary treatment with psychiatric medication, and about the negative effects that can occur with the use of psychiatric medications. The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the elimination of restrictive practices, such as the use of seclusion and restraint, and limiting its use to a last resort as part of upholding the dignity and rights of people accessing mental health services. The Government continues to work with state and territory governments, under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments Health Council, towards the elimination of restraint and seclusion in mental health care, through the cross jurisdictional Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee.

The Government is also committed to ensuring that therapeutic goods available for supply in Australia are safe and fit for their intended purpose. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) monitors the safety of medicines in Australia to contribute to a better understanding of their possible adverse effects when they are used outside the controlled conditions of clinical trials. Reports of adverse events can be made by anybody, and these reports are analysed regularly by scientific and medical experts to identify potential safety issues. The TGA has the power to issue alerts or recalls when issues or deficiencies are identified in relation to the safety, quality, efficacy or presentation of medicines.

Thank you for writing on this matter.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt