Mental health reform: increased resources but limited gains
Improved population-level prevention and service access is needed
The National Mental Health Report1 is the prime vehicle for monitoring the mental health system reform agenda outlined in the Australian Government’s National Mental Health Strategy. We consider here what the 2013 report tells us about the progress of that agenda.
First, we know that mental health expenditure, after 18 years of mirroring growth in overall health spending, in the 2010–11 financial year accounted for an increased proportion of health spending within the health sector. The direct-care workforce employed in mental health services increased by 72% between 1992–93 and 2010–11.
Second, the mix of services provided has improved. Inpatient care has moved from stand-alone psychiatric hospitals to psychiatric beds in general hospitals, while state and territory funding of ambulatory care services increased by 291% from 1992–93 to 2010–11. Between 2006–07 and 2010–11, the percentage of the population receiving Medicare-funded primary mental health care services rose from 3.1% to 6.9%, correlating to Medicare Benefits Schedule expenditure on mental health services increasing from $474 million to $852 million.
Encouragingly, gains have also been made in other areas. Rates of use of licit and illicit drugs that contribute to mental illness in young people…