The Australian Greens are very concerned that the Department of Health and Ageing seriously underestimated service level allocations to organisations under the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program, something they have admitted during Senate estimate hearings today.
Under the May Budget, funding of the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program was based on past service levels. In practice, this meant that the program was paused, as organisations were informed that they were restricted to providing client services and sessions at existing levels.
"Today in Estimates the department has admitted they had made their initial projections on the basis of incomplete data and underestimated the actual level of services being provided. As a result, the vast majority of the organisations which requested a re-evaluation of their service levels since May this year have subsequently had their service levels increased," Greens spokesperson for Mental Health, Senator Penny Wright, said.
"Out of 470 organisations registered under the program, 157 requested a review of the decision and 133 were successful in receiving a boost to their service level allocations as a result of wrong projections.
"It is clear that funding decisions about this important program have been poorly thought through, leaving organisations no flexibility to respond to increasing demand or changes in their clients' circumstances.
"I am especially worried that this means people experiencing serious mental health conditions may have been turned away and missed out on services.
"This program has been hailed as extremely important and valuable by clients, GPs, nurses and psychiatrists and especially in rural and regional areas, where access to quality mental health services is often already restricted. It is vital that it is properly funded so that it can meet demand."