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Mental health handouts too little too late.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/983 WEDNESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2004 SENATOR LYN ALLISON AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HEALTH SPOKESPERSON MENTAL HEALTH HANDOUTS TOO LITTLE TOO LATE While welcoming their mental health spending promises, the Australian Democrats have questioned the major parties real commitment to addressing the needs of both people with mental illness, and their families. Senator Lyn Allison said about one in five people in Australia are affected by a mental health problem, yet governments of all levels have consistently neglected the needs of both people with mental illness, and their families. "It is regrettable that the major parties are only starting to recognise the needs of people with mental illness at election time and even then their proposals are inadequate," Senator Allison said. “We need leadership and commitment at the Federal level to bring state and territory governments to the table on mental health services rather than a hotch-potch of programs designed to win votes. "Sixty two percent of people with mental disorders do not use mental health services, because amongst other services, they are difficult to access, cost too much and do not provide the right types of treatments and assistance. "Of the 38% of people who do access care, this is mainly through GPs. The decline in bulkbilling making it even more difficult for people with mental illness to obtain even basic primary care services." Senator Allison said mental illness is responsible for about 13% of Australia's disease burden but receives only about 7% of health funding - half as much spent in other comparable OECD countries. "The Democrats believe the Coalition's plan to give $30 million to allow GPs to spend more time assessing mental health needs would be more effectively directed to psychiatrists." "While Labor and the Coalition announcements are steps in the right direction, greater investment is needed in prevention and early intervention services, which could not only halt disabling illness but save billions of dollars in welfare costs and lost earnings. "We call on whoever wins Government to provide an ongoing commitment to the National Mental Health Strategy, not just a one-off pre-election offer of boosting selected services." Media Contact - Katrina McGrath - 0408 056 167