Chapter 2 - Recommendations of A national approach to mental health – from crisis to community

Chapter 2 - Recommendations of A national approach to mental health – from crisis to community

2.1       On 30 March 2006 the committee's first report, A national approach to mental health – from crisis to community, was tabled in the Senate. This chapter presents the recommendations contained in that report.

Seeking CoAG agreement on more community care

Recommendation 1

2.2       The committee recommends that COAG initiates:

Note: evidence suggests that the mental health budget should, by 2012, reach between 9 and 12 percent of the total health budget and whilst significant investment is required in mental health in the short to medium term, it is anticipated that early intervention and community-based care would deliver savings in the long term.

Developing mental health strategies

2.3       The above recommendation lies at the heart of the committee's vision of a mental health care system that is more accessible, more community centred and better resourced. However, more coordinated and effective planning should also pay big dividends for mental health, including reforms to the National Mental Health Strategy, as well as developing concrete plans in some specific areas of mental health.

Recommendation 2

2.4       The committee recommends that the Australian Health Ministers agree to:

Recommendation 3

2.5       The committee recommends that the Australian Health Ministers agree to establish a timeline and implementation plan for the National Statement of Principles for Forensic Mental Health

Advocacy, monitoring and research

2.6       The committee heard extensive evidence of the need to strengthen consumer advocacy, improve mental health research, and create more rigorous monitoring of the implementation of mental health policy objectives. The committee is of the view that a range of organisations can contribute to achieving these goals. The following recommendation aims to spread a range of tasks across some existing, and some new, organisations that work on mental health and human rights.

Recommendation 4

2.7       The committee recommends that Australian Health Ministers agree to

2.8       The committee believes other measures should also be introduced that would strengthen leadership and consumer advocacy in mental health, including the following:

Recommendation 5

2.9       The committee recommends that Australian Health Ministers agree to recognise mental health as a designated ministerial responsibility in federal, state and territory departments of health

Recommendation 6

2.10      The committee recommends that state and territory governments agree to harmonise Mental Health Acts relating to involuntary treatment and admission 'sectioning', and establish inter-state arrangements for treatment where the strict application of state and territory responsibility can mean far longer distances must be travelled to access services than could be the case.

Recommendation 7

2.11      The committee recommends that all governments establish benchmarks for the employment of consumer and carer consultants in mental health services, including forensic mental health services, and that all service providers have formal mechanisms for consumer and carer participation.

2.12      Progress in mental health reform will rely on being able to assess the changing nature of mental health service provision, and on boosting the mental health research effort significantly. The committee believes that better information and research about mental health is something that could be a useful part of a CoAG package of reforms.

Recommendation 8

2.13      The committee recommends that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare should collect comprehensive data on mental health service provision such as the number of people receiving treatment and the nature of that treatment, public and private, and on population wide indicators of mental health and wellbeing.

Recommendation 9

2.14      The committee recommends that the Australian Government increase funding to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), to enable an increase in research funding on mental health from $15 million,[1] at least doubling it to $30 million per year.

Other joint government initiatives

2.15      The committee heard about a host of other reforms and service delivery proposals that could deliver better mental health services. They have been discussed throughout the first report. In its first report the committee mentioned two that it believed would require cooperative action by governments and could be considered as part of the current CoAG process.

Recommendation 10

2.16      The committee recommends that Australian Health Ministers consider the creation of a national emergency 1800 telephone helpline, resourced to provide mental health crisis responses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and staffed by personnel with expertise in mental health.

Recommendation 11

2.17      The committee recommends that Australian Health Ministers agree that funding for SAAP be increased overall, and that there be dedicated resources within that funding for clients with complex needs including dual diagnosis.

Recommendations for specific governments

The committee put forward the following recommendations for Australian, state and territory government action, for consideration within the context of CoAG negotiations:

Further recommendations for specific Australian Government action

Recommendation 12

2.18      The committee recommends that the Australian Government

Further recommendations for state and territory government action

Recommendation 13

2.19      The committee recommends that state and territory governments

2.20      The committee hopes this report will be a step forward in the process of improving mental health services in Australia. It looks forward to the adoption of the recommendations included here by CoAG and by all Australian governments.

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