Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Funding system fails mental health needs in the bush -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: The National Mental Health Commission says the availability of mental health services in the bush can be patchy even though the need is high.

At a national rural health conference in Darwin today, the Commission's chief executive said it was time to start reforming mental health services so people could get the help they need.

Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The CEO of the national mental health commission David Butt says mental health needs are often higher in the bush, but services are harder to come by.

At a national rural health conference in Darwin today he spoke about the need for change to make sure people across the country get the help they need.

DAVID BUTT: We've got 2,500 people die from suicide in Australia each year, so that's seven a day which is really quite disgraceful.

And a lot of the time you find that people don't have the services wrapped around them to support them when they need them and your suicide rates get worse as you move out of metropolitan areas.

I mean in the most remote areas, the suicide rates are actually twice what they are in metropolitan areas.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The commission's review of mental health programs and services released last month found the mental health system was poorly planned and badly integrated, and did not prioritise peoples' needs.

It sets out a plan for change by redirecting existing funding to get better results from what's being spent.

Today a group of families who've lost relatives to suicide met in Canberra and urged the government to act on the report.

The CEO of the Mental Health Commission David Butt declined to comment on whether the Government's response has been too slow.

DAVID BUTT: Oh it's a matter for government, I mean, at the end of the day they've got to work out their time frames.

It's a complex report, it's over 700 pages long. It's had input from 2,000 submissions so there's a lot in it. There's 25 recommendations and almost 200 actions so… so yeah we want a considered response to the review.

SARA EVERINGHAM: David Butt says the priorities are overcoming confusion within different levels of government about their roles in delivering mental health services.

He says there's potential for greater use of online mental health resources in the bush, where it's often difficult to attract qualified staff.

He'd also like to see a more localised approach to funding to reduce the disparity in services between the city and the bush.

DAVID BUTT: So that you bundle up funding at a regional level on a weighted population basis and then you get your local community engaged in looking at what are the needs of that population, what are the priorities and then having the primary health networks and the local hospital districts, then commissioning services and delivering those services to people.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Do you think that would work better for remote and regional areas?

DAVID BUTT: Yes, yes, I think very much so because it is a weighted population formula rather than being something that's just done on a basis of people applying for funds and you know whoever is fortunate to get chosen there.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Dr Stephanie Trust, a GP in the town of Kununurra in the east Kimberley, says there's a need for more services for young people.

She says she recently referred a young patient to mental health services but the waiting time was six weeks.

She supports an overhaul of the way mental health services are funded.

STEPHANIE TRUST: A lot of the funding is dependent on population numbers and when you're competing with that in the bush you're never gonna win because our population numbers are so small.

But our burden of disease and need is so high.

MARK COLVIN: Kununurra GP Stephanie Trust ending Sara Everingham's report.