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Australian PM announces $1.8 billion mental health plan

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced a five year plan costing AU$1.8 billion to address issues with the country's mental health system. The plan follows a commitment made at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in February.

The federal government will improve access to clinical and health services, increase the number of mental health professionals in Australia, create mental health work teams consisting of GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health nurses, provide respite services for people suffering mental illness and their carers, and introduce new programs for community awareness.

Mr Howard said the plan addresses issues which fall into its area of responsibility. He hopes that the states and territories will complement the federal government's package by investing in supported accommodation, hospital and emergency services, crisis care services and the provision of mental health care in gaols.

Under the federal government's plan, psychologists will play a greater role in the mental health system. From November, Patients will be able to claim a rebate from Medicare (Australia's universal healthcare scheme) for the services of psychologists if they have been referred by a GP or psychiatrist. At present patients pay around $100 for a standard 30 minute consultation.

Mr Howard claims that there is an issue for mental health professionals in treating patients with a substance abuse problem and mental illness. To address this the government will provide extra funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.

The government will increase the mental health workforce by funding an additional 400 mental health nursing and 200 clinical psychology places. 900 personal helpers and mentors will also be employed.

The government has promised increase funding for telephone counselling and suicide prevention services, living skills programs and additional support for those with a mental illness who are having difficulty finding or keeping work.

The government will also provide 900 personal helpers and mentors, increase funding for living skills programs and provide additional employment assistance to those who have difficulty finding or retaining employment due to their illness.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.