Mental health care in NSW ‘a dog’s breakfast’

3 minute read

Significant investment in extra funding is the only way people will get the mental healthcare they deserve.

The funding of outpatient and community mental health services in New South Wales is a “dog’s breakfast”, a NSW Legislative Council committee has been told.

Dr Angelo Virgona, chair of the NSW branch of the RANZCP, told the inquiry into equity, accessibility and appropriate delivery of outpatient and community mental health care in NSW that change to the system was going to take “something really significant”.

“It’s a dog’s breakfast, really the funding of services to people,” said Dr Virgona. “We have people who may be able to access a number of services through the victim’s compensation system. Some people get access to psychological therapies through the NDIS if their package is related to that.

“It is a hodgepodge of services out there, and it’s impossible for people to navigate them.

“We’ve got intake services all over the place, assessment services all over the place, of varying qualities.

“How to bring some coherence to that is going to take some really serious thinking between the state and federal governments,” he said.

Dr Virgona was lead author of the RANZCP’s report The NSW mental health care system on the brink: Evidence from the frontline, released in March this year, which had three key recommendations.

“We need to perform a gap analysis of mental health services in NSW,” Dr Virgona told the committee.

“We don’t really have a sense of the quantum, we don’t have a sense of exactly where we are, exactly what the models tell us we should have in terms of services, and what the gap is.”

A gap analysis is being undertaken, of which he is a part, he told the committee, but it was “not quite the analysis we wanted”, he said.

“But we will cooperate with anything that’s being done to try to define what gaps there are and where the priorities should be,” said Dr Vergona.

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“Without that [analysis] we can’t do the type of serious service planning and prioritisation that needs to be done to see NSW catch up.

“We are so far behind at the moment. And we really do need to catch up and it’s got to take significant investment.”

Dr Virgona told the committee that Victoria and Queensland were making significant changes by proposing to levy companies with payrolls over $10 million a year, to provide additional funds for mental health.

“You are not going to see any reform of the sector in NSW by us doing pre-budget submissions and the minister trying to eke out another couple of percentage points out of the Treasury,” he said.

“With each budget, this is going to require major investment.

“The order of magnitude in in Victoria is around $800 million a year. In Queensland, they’ve committed to $400-$500 million a year of new funding into mental health.

“And that’s what we’re talking about in NSW. It’s going to take something really significant to change the landscape and to provide the services that people deserve.”

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