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Australian Mental Health Spending At Highest Level, New Report Finds

This post originally featured on The Canberra Times.

Spending on mental health services in Australia is at its highest level ever, according to a new report.

The report – released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) – revealed $8.5 billion was spent on mental health in 2014-15, or $361 per person, up from $343 per person in 2010-11.

Since 2011, mental health spending has increased by $911 million.

Of the $8.5 billion spent in the sector in the 2014-15 financial year, $5.2 billion was spent on state and territory mental health services.

A spokeswoman for ACT Health said in that time, $97 million was spent on mental health services in the territory.

“This includes significant investment in grants to non-government organisations to deliver community based mental services, which was over $17.5 million,” she said.

“The ACT government is committed to continuing to invest in better mental health services.”

Spending by the territory government included more than $43 million on the construction of the Dhulwa mental health unit, which opened in November 2016, as well as a mental health short-stay unit at Canberra Hospital’s emergency department.

“In addition, as part of the new University of Canberra public hospital, there will be residential rehabilitation treatment services to assist mental health consumers recover and transition back into the community,” the spokeswoman said.

In the last financial year, more than 10,600 people in the ACT accessed public mental health services, according to ACT Health.

The AIHW report also found the federal government paid $1.1 billion on Medicare subsidies related to mental health, making up more than five per cent of all subsidies.

The government also spent $564 million on prescriptions such as antidepressants listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or $24 per person.

Matthew James from the AIHW said specialised mental health services were provided by up to 10,600 full-time staff from 160 public hospitals from across the country, up from 3400 staff in 1992-93.

“The number of direct care staff employed in public sector community mental health services has seen the biggest change over the last two decades,” Mr James said.

“This change reflects increased investment by state and territory governments in community based mental health care.”

The spokeswoman for ACT Health said there are 540 full-time staff working in the mental health sector in the ACT, however it does not include those working at Calvary Hospital or in the private sector.

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