Page 3850 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Can the Minister advise the Assembly what other initiatives the government is taking to address the key issues identified in this report?

MR CORBELL: Since gaining office, the government has—as I indicated in my previous answer to Mr Smyth—significantly increased funding for mental health services here in the ACT. Spending on mental health services has increased by 75 per cent since 2001, from $75 per head of population to $131 per head of population in the most recent year—a 75 per cent increase in funding for mental health services.

In addition, we are progressing in our proactive approach to future mental health needs. This includes the identification of service needs over the next 10 years. That work is now under way. This includes specialist bed-based services and community mental health care, as well as improved non-clinical care arrangements and support for people in the community. Through our planning work we are already identifying what needs to be provided for in terms of a new mental health precinct at the Canberra Hospital. Planning is under way to prepare the ground for government consideration of a new 30-bed facility, a 15-bed high-security unit and a 20-bed children and young people mental health unit.

We also continue to fund a number of mental health rehabilitation programs through community agencies. We are continuing to address issues around work force shortage. We have to tackle those issues in a national and international context.

It is also worth highlighting that three-quarters of all mental health funding in the ACT goes to the community or to the outreach and community support area. Unlike other states that are criticised for spending all their dollars in the acute care, clinical care areas, three-quarters of the funding that we provide goes into outreach, prevention and support in the community. Again, that is consistent with the sorts of approaches that the Mental Health Council of Australia is urging governments to adopt. Ours is 75 per cent; the national average is 51 per cent. You can see that we are well ahead in providing care and support in the community and outreach sector for community-based services.

We are continuing to address the issues of housing and supportive housing for people with mental illness. That has recently been progressed with a memorandum of understanding with ACT Housing.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that we have done work in improving liaison with the Divisions of General Practice. We are making sure that GPs are playing more of a role in identifying early the symptoms of mental illness, and providing care and support at that primary care level. This is so important in terms of preventing the downward spiral that is all too often the case with people ending up in acute care facilities for more serious mental illness.

We have also done the work in addressing the concerns raised by the courts about sentencing and detention options for people who need forensic mental care, so that they are not kept in places such as the BRC—the Belconnen Remand Centre—or sent to jail. Instead, we are planning and working to provide for forensic care services, which will prevent the sorts of problems we have seen in the past.

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