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Mental Health funding Question Without Notice

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
20 June 2019

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN (12:06): In directing my question to the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women, I refer to the Mental Health Infrastructure Program that was allocated $700 million over an undefined period, to only $14.68 million being spent in 2018-19 and only $22.33 million being allocated in this week's budget. I ask: In the middle of a mental health crisis that includes an alarming increase in suicide, why is the Government spending only 3 per cent of $700 million allocated to mental health infrastructure over the next 12 months?

The Hon. BRONNIE TAYLOR (Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women) (12:07): I thank Ms Cate Faehrmann for her question. As the Minister for Mental Health, I am proud to say that $700 million was allocated for mental health capital expenditure over a period of 10 years. The Government is examining matters very carefully and is planning that infrastructure build in terms of capital investment to which the member referred. I am pleased that work is underway to deliver capital works to support the future needs of mental health services. I am particularly pleased to state that much of the Government's focus will be on planning new mothers and babies units at the Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead hospitals, which will provide a really important service that will allow mothers to stay with their babies.

The $20 million that was allocated in the 2018-19 budget commenced the statewide Mental Health Infrastructure Program, which is estimated to cost a total of $700 million. I emphasise that the $700 million will be capital expenditure over 10 years so that the Government can get its planning right. We know where facilities and services have to be built and we know what has to be done. What this Government does very well is think about the planning for services. The Government has allocated a record infrastructure spend for mental health services.

As I said earlier, the Government is considering new mothers and babies units, an older persons unit at Campbelltown Hospital, units for forensic patients and 260 step-up, step-down community beds that are a fantastic and much-needed initiative. That is a lot of beds. The Government will carefully consider where they need to be to provide the most effective care so that people can transition from an acute state in the mental health service to primary health care and also provide for the possibility they will have to come back.

It was a really interesting concept and someone spoke to me about this. After my having been a cancer nurse for 20 years, this person told me a lot of people are starting to think about mental health in respect of cancer services. Twenty years ago when I first started as a nurse if you had a diagnosis that it was a metastatic disease you did not have a long-term prospect—now you do, and in mental health you do. However, we need to make sure that those acute services transfer into community services so that they can all work together. That is what those 260 step-up, step-down beds are about. It is a fantastic initiative.

Local health services will continue to prioritise their capital work investments, including for mental health. Also being considered is further investment enhancing the therapeutic environment for some acute mental health services. We are seeing this in the sensory rooms that are starting to be built. I visited one such room at Hornsby hospital only a couple of weeks ago, which is fantastic. I know the honourable member is interested in seclusion and restraint measures. The infrastructure that is being changed to build these rooms means that we can look at effective de-escalation measures, avoiding people having to be restrained in a physical or chemical manner. This is really exciting.

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
20 June 2019
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