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NSW Liberals & Nationals announce Mental Health Commission to better co-ordinate services

A NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will establish a Mental Health Commission to drive reform and improve outcomes for patients, NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell and Shadow Minister for Mental Health Kevin Humphries announced today.

The NSW Liberals & Nationals will also quarantine mental health funding within the overall health budget with the Commission responsible for allocating resources to where they are most needed through the most appropriate models of care.

\”The Commissioner will be a champion for mental health within government so that sufferers get the best possible treatment,\” Mr O’Farrell said during a visit to the LifeLine centre in Camden.

\”Based on the successful West Australian model, our Commission will deliver better outcomes for the one in five people affected by mental illness,\” he said.

\”A Mental Health Commission is needed to drive the necessary reforms to improve mental health outcomes, because NSW lags behind other states on mental health care.

\”NSW has dropped the ball on mental health with over 600,000 mental health sufferers receiving no care or treatment over the past year.[1]

\”With the appropriate treatment and support, those affected have an increased chance of recovery.

\”I’m very proud of the NSW Liberals & Nationals record on mental health, which includes being the first party in Australia to appoint a dedicated mental health spokesperson,\” Mr O’Farrell said.

Mr O’Farrell said the NSW Liberals & Nationals have already committed an additional $8 million in recurrent funding over four years for LifeLine’s telephone and counseling services.

Mr Humphries said with mental illness being a leading burden of disease in NSW, the Mental Health Commission’s role in overhauling the state’s mental health system was essential to rebuilding a ‘system currently in crisis’.

\”The Keneally Labor Government’s spending on mental health had been poorly targeted and poorly reported with little accountability,\” Mr Humphries said.[2]

\”Around one in five Australians is affected by mental illness each year, yet only one in three will receive the necessary help they need,\” he said.[3]

\”Too many mental health patients end up in hospital emergency departments. Early intervention with care in the community from a range of providers could prevent some of these hospital admissions.

\”Under State Labor, mental health has been the poor cousin of the greater health system for too long.

\”As part of a reformative approach to mental health, last year, the NSW Liberals & Nationals established the Restoring Mental Health Taskforce with the aim of developing a new direction for mental health which concluded on the establishment of a Mental Health Commission,\” he said.

The NSW Liberals and Nationals will:

  • Establish a NSW Mental Health Commission, based on best practice models around the world, including the Western Australian Mental Health Commission.
  • Provide quarantined and accountable funding for mental health expenditure. The Commission will have full responsibility for the allocation of the mental health budget, and will be able to focus resources on where they are most needed and on the most appropriate models of care.
  • Establish a working group to develop the legislation to establish the Mental Health Commission, drawing on interstate and international experiences.
  • Establish three specialist units within the Mental Health Commission to better manage the experience of mental health patients and carers, divert mental health patients away from the prison system, and help ensure a smooth operation of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

What others are saying about the NSW Liberals & Nationals plan to establish a Mental Health Commission:

\”Illnesses of the mind have been treated as less important than illnesses of the body for a long time. You can’t have good health unless you have both. The establishment of a specific Mental Health Commission was identified by the Restoring Mental Health Taskforce, chaired by Kevin Humphries and myself, as a key strategy designed to correct this imbalance. The Commission will ensure that mental health services and programs get the attention and resources they deserve in NSW. It will also deliver a new standard of independent accountability so that the community can start to have confidence that NSW has a mental health system on which it can rely. The establishment of a NSW Mental Health Commission would be a very important step forward.\”

Sebastian Rosenberg

Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Policy, Brain & Mind Research Institute, School of Medical Sciences

Co-Chair of the NSW Liberals & Nationals Restoring Mental Health Taskforce

\”The announcement that a Mental Health Commission would be established by an O’Farrell Government is a positive first step towards long overdue reform in mental health care in NSW. A Mental Health Commission could increase accountability and encourage greater use of holistic evidence based models of care that deliver real positive outcomes to people with mental ill-health, their families and the wider community. Crucially, if Mr O’Farrell becomes Premier, he will have an early opportunity to build on this Mental Health Commission announcement by playing a leadership role to secure a meaningful reform and investment plan for mental health at the next COAG meeting. Based on my discussions with Mr O’Farrell and his Shadow Mental Health Minister Kevin Humphries, I am confident they will rise to this challenge.\”

Professor Patrick McGorry

Australian of the Year 2010

Orygen Youth Health

\”The establishment of a Mental Health Commission to focus specifically on mental health care is long overdue. Addressing the needs of the mental health community are so often overlooked when health issues are discussed and hopefully we can look forward to a new era where we focus more resources on where they are most needed; especially when we consider that one in five Australians during their lifetime will suffer from a mood disorder. Given the power, a Mental Health Commission has the potential to provide an independent voice for the community and the organisations providing services for people with a mental health illness.\”

Professor Gordon Parker

Executive Director

Black Dog Institute

\”For over 20 years, the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW has pursued the holy grail of truly separate quarantined and accountable mental health funding responsible to an independent Minister and administered by an independent mental health authority. We congratulate the NSW Coalition for taking that approach. Until now mental illness has been the Cinderella of the NSW Health system which explains why it is currently in crisis. Only the delivery of a new level of independent and robust accountability for mental health will deliver justice to people with a mental illness and their carers. Only a truly quarantined budget will prevent the many reported raids on mental health funding to prop up a haemorrhaging public hospital system. The great majority of people with mental illness have always lived within our communities not our hospitals. Our Fellowship welcomes the Coalition’s determination to develop the community mental health system and its strong support for psychosocial rehabilitation.”

The Hon Frank Walker QC

President Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW

Vice President Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia

[1] NSW share of 2.1 million Australians with a mental illness in previous 12 months not receiving care – National Mental Health Report 2010, p17

[2] NSW Budget Papers 2010-11

[3] National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007


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Stuart Ayres - Member for Penrith

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