RUDD Government mental health adviser Professor John Mendoza quit in a storm of controversy after being routinely ignored by the then-Prime Minister and his cabinet.
Today, fewer than 12 months on and with another Nambour boy reading the details of the Federal Budget last night, the University of Sunshine Coast adjunct-professor of health science said the Gillard Government had shown it was listening.
“The government has heard and listened carefully to the critique of mental health services,” Prof Mendoza said. “Tonight they came forward with a fairly well targeted set of measures.”
Speaking from within parliament, Prof Mendoza said it would “transform” mental health services across the country including the Coast.
“In relation to a full national system relating to services for young people and early psychosis programs, they have full funding.
“We will start to see, in regions like the Sunshine Coast, places like (mental health group) Headspace will start appearing.
“They focus on the mental health needs of those in early adulthood that otherwise risk unemployment, isolation and high suicide risk.”
Professor Mendoza said there was “no listening” by the Rudd Government – an ignorance he countered with his resignation.
“I decided I was better able to influence the process from the outside,” he said.
“In the 2010 election, Julia Gillard made promises on mental health – they have heard concern from across the Australian people.”
Almost one-third of the $1.5 billion in spending for the next five years will come from cutting rebates for GPs who provide mental health treatment plans.
Only $47 million of that will be spent in the next financial year with most flowing in in four or five years.
The Government's own mental health reform group had called for $3.5 billion over five years and Australia's peak doctors' group wanted $5 billion.
Treasurer Wayne Swan insists the Government has delivered on its promise to make mental health a priority in its second term.
And Health Minister Nicola Roxon said it was the largest commitment to mental health services in the country's history.
Thirty-two million dollars for a national mental health commission, to monitor progress on its roll out and results – was also welcome.
Key health measures
- $1.5 billion over five years for mental health initiatives including a new national mental health commission
- Prof John Mendoza, who resigned due to Rudd Government inaction over mental health, welcomed the plan
- Youth mental services will also be rolled out, with the goal of helping young adults needing help, thereby lowering isolation and suicide rates
- Saving of $581 million over five years by slashing the Medicare rebate for GPs drawing up mental health treatment plans and restricting patients to 10 instead of 12 treatments
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