Government unveils shake-up of mental health system

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a shake-up of federal funding for mental health services in Australia.

The government spent about $10 billion annually for mental health treatment which needed to be delivered more effectively, he told reporters in Parliament House on Thursday.

“The impact of depression and other mental illnesses on our productivity, I think all of us know this if not from personal experience from friends and family … is enormous,” Mr Turnbull said.


Mental illness “gnaws away” at productivity and offering indivdualised care packages would be “transformative”, he said.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said the government had listened to the sector, carers and families and wanted to match services to people’s level of need.

“At the moment, it tends to be one-size-fits-all,” she said.

Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett says the reforms will make it easier for Australians to get help.

“It’s about time someone had the guts and foresight to overhaul the system to focus on the needs of people rather than providers,” Mr Kennett said in a statement.

“We need to get the maximum bang for our buck by spending taxpayers’ dollars where they have the greatest impact.

This is exactly the kind of leadership we need to help the three million people who at any one time have depression or anxiety, and the hundreds of people who attempt to take their lives or the seven who die by suicide every day in Australia – and their families.”

Here’s what’s included in the new approach:

* No new money, just shifting existing funds.

* Stepped care model – different levels of primary care treatment and support depending on their level of need.

* Service delivery will now come from the government’s 31 Primary Care Networks rather than Canberra.

* $85 million over three years for indigenous mental health.

* A new one-stop-shop mental health help phone line.

* Individualised care packages for those with severe and complex mental illness.

* New resources for teachers to recognise and prevent mental health problems.

* Reforms will be rolled out over a three-year period between 2016 and 2019.