Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Supporting regional Australia with extra funding for community mental health services

Joint Media Release with:

  • Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
    Steve Gibbons Arbib, Member for Bendigo

People living in regional and rural Australia will benefit from the Gillard Government’s $269.3 million boost for community mental health services, announced in this year’s Budget.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and the Member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons, today visited St Luke’s Anglicare in Bendigo, Victoria, to highlight the impact the extra funding will have.

The funding boost will help around 35,000 Australians and their carers and is part of the Government’s total commitment of $2.2 billion over five years for mental health services.

It will help to employ 425 new personal helpers and mentors to work one-on-one with people with mental illness across Australia.

In addition to the Budget funding for new and expanded services, the Government is also continuing its support for existing community mental health services.

Funding of $106.8 million over the next three years will allow 79 Personal Helpers and Mentors services with contracts expiring in June 2010 to have their contracts renewed for three years with an increase to their funding.

St Luke’s Anglicare in Bendigo will receive $478,000 a year to continue delivering

much-needed support to Bendigo and surrounding areas, an increase from the $428,824 they received in 2010-11.

The new personal helpers and mentors funded through the Budget will join the more than 1,000 current full-time equivalent workers who are already providing practical support to people with severe and debilitating mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Personal helpers and mentors provide practical, intensive support to help people set and achieve personal goals, such as finding suitable housing, looking for work or improving relationships with family and friends.

The new workers will help an additional 3,400 people with mental illness to live more independent lives and reconnect with the wider community.

Areas with unmet need such as rural, regional and remote Australia will be a priority for the new funding.

Currently 46 per cent, or 80 out of 175, Personal Helpers and Mentors services are supporting people outside metropolitan centres.

An evaluation released today of Government community mental health initiatives such as Personal Helpers and Mentors found these services are making real improvements to the lives of people with mental illness across regional and metropolitan Australia.

People using these services experienced improved health and wellbeing, better coping skills, and more confidence. Many also experienced reduced social isolation and improved relationships with family and friends.

In addition to the boost for community mental health, a total of $205.9 million is being provided in this year’s budget for a major expansion of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS).

This investment will be used to better target the provision of psychological services providing treatment for an additional approximately 185,000 people over five years. This includes 116,000 specifically for people from hard to reach groups including those in rural and regional areas.

These investments will make a real, practical difference to the lives of Australians with mental illness, particularly those in areas of high need such as regional Australia.