Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 November 2005) . . Page.. 4140 ..
As we have argued for a number of years, there is a pressing requirement for appropriate facilities to provide services and care to people suffering from mental illness, and I would still argue that a time-out facility, ignored by this government yet supported by magistrates, justices, a former chief police officer, clients and carers, is the answer to many of these problems. At the same time, though, there is just as much urgency to ensure that appropriate community-based programs and services are resourced to provide critical services to people suffering from mental health issues before they reach the point where their illness necessitates admission to specialised facilities.
That is the point that we make here: this fight needs to be fought much earlier and it needs to be fought with far more resources. It is something that we would look to from the minister in the lead-up to the next budget, and indeed in the budget announcement: that we do get much quicker than is being proposed to the world’s best practice standard of somewhere between 12 and 14 per cent of health budgets being spent on mental health; that we do reduce the case loads that are currently between 30 and 40 clients per mental health worker in our system, down to the world’s best practice of 12; and that we do start and do more early intervention, particularly arming our young people so that they can identify amongst their peers those who are suffering or are in trouble and indeed arm themselves against the early onset of mental illnesses.
These are important issues, they are issues that relate to all of us and they are issues that affect all of us, and that is why I have raised as a matter of public importance the state of the mental health system in the ACT today.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (4.00): Mr Speaker, can I start the government response to this MPI by making it quite clear that the government has never proposed the mental health precinct at the Canberra Hospital as the solution to our mental health problems. I would be a foolish man to suggest otherwise—to suggest that it was a solution—and I am not foolish, in that regard at least.
The ACT government has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, that we have a strong focus on improving mental health services in the ACT. This ties in with our commitment, as outlined, to improve the wellbeing of all Canberrans, with the Canberra plan and the Canberra social plan in particular.
There is no doubt that the issue of mental health in Australia now is one of pressing concern. All jurisdictions—state, commonwealth and territory—have a responsibility to work as hard and as comprehensively as they can within the resources available to them to address this growing issue of concern in our community. I would say, though, that, while we recognise there is more to be done, the government has shown its commitment to improving mental health services through significant increases in spending, in new initiatives and in new services.
ACT government spending on mental health since we took office has doubled. The figure of $75 per head of population in 2000-2001 has risen to $131 in the current budget—a 75 per cent increase. In 2003, the ACT government launched the ACT mental health strategy and action plan, which outlined the major directions for planning for the territory. These include a strong move towards prevention and recovery in mental health