Significantly increased mental health investment welcome, but misdirected

Released on 1st May 2018

cohealth, one of Victoria’s leading community health providers, has today expressed profound dismay at the Andrews Government’s failure to provide any investment into community managed mental health services, with the now comprehensive loss of psychosocial support and rehabilitation programs certain to hurt individuals, families and communities across the State.

cohealth’s Chief Executive, Lyn Morgain, said that “the 2018 Budget represented a critical moment for the future of mental health service delivery in Victoria. Consumers, service providers, and advocates, have loudly and at length urged the Government to invest the necessary money to save the State’s existing community mental health services, and restore those that have already been lost. With no new funding provided for community mental health, more services will be lost, and more people will suffer.”

Victoria’s community mental health services have long been the envy of other  States and Territories, with services providing psychosocial support and rehabilitation programs that enable those experiencing mental health difficulties to become and stay well. Following a decision made by the previous Napthine Government to roll funding for community mental health services into the NDIS, these services have progressively been lost across the State as the NDIS has rolled out.

“The NDIS was never designed to provide the kind of support and rehabilitation that has been effectively delivered by Victoria’s community mental health services for decades,” said Ms Morgain.

“Time again we are hearing heartbreaking stories from former clients and their families of declining mental health and increased pressure on family and carers as individuals lose the support they once received from community mental health services. Too often, this then leads to increased presentations to hospitals and other acute services as individuals become more seriously unwell.”

Ms Morgain welcomed the significant additional mental health funding provided in the State Budget, noting in particular the $58.9m expansion of the Mental Health and Complex Needs Initiative, and the $28.6m funding boost to existing Preventative and Residential Care Units. However she said that the Government’s focus on acute services was misdirected.

Ms Morgain noted that, “Emergency services whilst vital, do not provide a sustainable solution for the support of people in community. People with serious mental illness cannot live in hospital wards or emergency rooms. Neither can we medicalise the experience of people with these illnesses. They have a right to a life in community.

“Just today, a report from KPMG noted that ‘We spend a lot on people with acute mental illness in hospital. If we invested more up front in prevention and early intervention the cost burden on hospitals would be reduced.’ Whilst funding to provide acute care to those who need it is always welcome, the failure to also invest in support, prevention and rehabilitation services such as those provided by community mental health means that pressure will remain on our acute services and in fact will likely increase as more services close,” said Ms Morgain.

“We are extremely disappointed at the Government’s failure to act to save, and in some cases reinstate, Victoria’s critical community mental health services, particularly given the significant size of the Budget surplus,” said Ms Morgain. “We had a skilled and capable workforce, with developed capability to support people within communities to recover and stay well. It has taken decades to build this infrastructure and yet the government seems content to see it disappear entirely”

“We will continue to stand with our past and current clients, their families, and other mental health service providers and advocates in calling on the Government to fully fund the entire mental health system, and save our previous community mental health services.”

More information: Aram Hosie 0403 317 618 or

About cohealth

cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation that provides vital local health and support services including medical, dental, allied health, mental health, aged care and counselling, along with many specialist programs across Melbourne’s CBD, northern and western suburbs.

cohealth responds to people’s needs by delivering a wide range of low cost, high-quality, accessible health care and support services. cohealth promotes health and wellbeing, works to prevent ill-health and better manage health conditions, and is a keen advocate for improved access to health care for all.

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