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Better Access

Estimates & Committees
Penny Wright 20 Feb 2012

Community Affairs Committee
Wednesday 15 February 2012

Senator WRIGHT: I now have some questions regarding Better Access. As of January 2013 the number of treatment sessions available will be reduced from 16 to 10. In light of these projected changes to the Better Access program, what programs are currently being progressed to fill the likely need for services that will be caused by the changes that will come into effect on 1 January 2013?

Ms Campion: Some of the programs that will meet the needs of those patients include the Partners in Recovery measure, which was announced in the budget package, the expansion of the Support for Day to Day Living in the Community program, an existing program which received additional funding at budget, and the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre program.

Ms Nicholls: Also the government is expanding the Personal Helpers and Mentors program, which is administered by FaHCSIA and provides support to people with severe mental illness.

Senator WRIGHT: What about the ATAPS program? You have not mentioned that one.

Ms Nicholls: Funding for the ATAPS program is being more than doubled; additional funding of $205.9 million over five years is being provided. ATAPS does not specifically target people with more severe and persistent mental illness. ATAPS essentially has a similar client focus and target as the Better Access program, which is not to say that some people with severe and persistent mental illness, whose care needs can be met by short-term focus psychological strategies, cannot access ATAPS.

Senator WRIGHT: So if I understand what you are saying correctly, you would envisage that some of the people who will be affected by the changes to the Better Access program that will take effect in January of next year will be able to access assistance under ATAPS.

Ms Nicholls: I would probably restate that by saying that both Better Access and ATAPS have the same client group. A decision about whether a client should be referred to Better Access or to ATAPS would need to take into account what the needs of the client were. ATAPS has been specifically designed and developed to complement Better Access and to deliver psychological services and other allied therapy services to people who would not otherwise be able to access them under Better Access. It particularly targets the hard-to-reach groups like rural and remote people, people in low socioeconomic positions, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. There has been a significant expansion in support for child mental health services as well. The decision is in relation to that. Both Better Access and ATAPS will be able to provide some support to some people with severe mental illness, but not for people with persistent severe mental illness and people who need more than the number of services that Better Access or ATAPS can provide.

Senator WRIGHT: What is the current level of funding allocated to the Better Access program for the 2012 calendar year?

Ms Nicholls: Better Access does not specifically have an allocation. It is a demand-driven program. It does not have a fixed appropriation in that sense.

Senator WRIGHT: Has a budget amount been projected?

Ms Nicholls: I may need to take that on notice. I do not think I have any modelling with me. I can tell you what we have spent in previous years.

Senator WRIGHT: Perhaps you could tell me what you spent last year if that is available. Then you can take the question on notice.

Ms Nicholls: The last financial year?

Senator WRIGHT: The last calendar year—is that accessible for you or is it in terms of financial years?

Ms Nicholls: I have it in terms of financial years.

Senator WRIGHT: Perhaps you could give me that, and then look at the projections for this calendar year, because the cuts are going to take effect as of 1 January next year.

Ms Nicholls: The expenditure for last financial year was $605.1 million. I would need to take on notice what the projections into the future would be.

Senator WRIGHT: For the calendar year?

Ms Nicholls: For the calendar year.

Senator WRIGHT: Would it also be possible to give that so there is a comparison of calendar years for the last calendar year?

Ms Nicholls: Yes.

Senator WRIGHT: I am interested in knowing the level of funding allocated to the other mental health programs that are being progressed for the 2012 calendar year—for instance, the programs you mentioned, Partners in Recovery, PHaMs, Day to Day Living and EPPIC.

Ms Campion: We can provide with you those figures, but they are in financial year terms. If you would like them in calendar year terms we would need to take that on notice.

Senator WRIGHT: Do you have the financial years available now? Then I will ask for this calendar year on notice.

Ms Nicholls: For Partners in Recovery, it is $549.8 million over five years. That funding progressively ramps up over the years, so there is only a small amount of establishment money in this financial year. In 2012-13 it is $78.7 million; in 2013-14, it is $113 million; in 2014-15 it is $162 million; and in 2015-16 it is $195.5 million.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you. So that is the Partners in Recovery.

Ms Nicholls: Yes.

Senator WRIGHT: For Day to Day Living?

Ms Nicholls: For Day to Day Living in the last financial year, 2010-11, it is $9.9 million. For 2011-12 it is $12.1 million; for 2012-13 it is $14.1 million; for 2013-14 it is $14.3 million; for 2014-15 it is $14.8 million; and for 2015-16 it is $14.9 million.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you.

Ms Nicholls: But there was a significant increase in funding. It represents a nearly 30 per cent increase in funding from 2010-11.

Senator WRIGHT: So for 2010-11, for the sake of completeness—

Ms Nicholls: It was $9.9 million.

Senator WRIGHT: That is Day to Day Living. What about PHaMs?

Ms Campion: Senator, that is—

Senator WRIGHT: You are not able to give that? I was not sure; I was trying my luck there. For EPPIC?

Ms Campion: There are two lots of funding for EPPIC. There was an existing appropriation from an earlier budget measure and then it was expanded in the recent budget package. I could give you the combined figures, ifyou would like. The allocation for this financial year in total is $9.24 million. In 2012-13 it is $29.4 million; in 2013-14 it is $51.3 million; in 2014-15 it is $70.8 million; and in 2015-16 it is $80.8 million.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you. Has an evaluation been conducted of mental health reforms and program funding to identify service gaps or shortfalls in service delivery?

Mr Singh: An evaluation of precisely the nature you describe has not been undertaken. The budget package was informed by consultations broadly with the sector in trying to identify the types of gaps that existed, as well as being informed by a policy process that was undertaken across the Commonwealth with a very similar aim.

Senator WRIGHT: Is any such evaluation proposed in future? The reason that I am asking is that there is a concern that there are gaps in needs and services.

Mr Singh: That is one of the reasons that the National Mental Health Commission has been established. Its remit certainly involves reporting to government on gaps in the mental health system and in services for people with mental illness.

 

In the Supplementary Budget Estimates week, Penny Wright asked the Department of Health and Aging questions relating to the following mental health issues. Click on the links below to read the transcripts.

10 Year Roadmap for Mental Health Reform

Better Access

Targeted Mental Health Service Delivery

High Risk Groups

Mental Health Services for Regional, Rural and Remote Areas

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