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Mental health funds to ‘transform sector’

Tonight’s budget announcements are expected to include a boost to mental health funding.

A mental health expert predicts a new $2 billion funding package in tonight's federal budget will help transform the sector.

Treasurer Wayne Swan reportedly will reveal details of the package when he delivers the Gillard government's first budget at 7.30pm (AEST).

It will include money for prevention of mental illness and direct care for mentally-ill patients, The Sydney Morning Herald says.

A large component of the package will be aimed at helping people with mental problems back into the workforce, and helping those who do have jobs to keep them.

Prevention programs will include early intervention for children and adolescents, and funds for the Headspace program for young adults.

Ian Hickie, executive director of the Brain and Mind Institute and a key adviser to the government on mental health, is hoping the package will contain "new money" of between $1.5-$2 billion.

"The money is in the order of what we need," he told ABC Radio, adding it was important the states and territories backed it up with the delivery of services.

"If the two go together, we'll see a transformation of mental health in this country."

Hickie said it was important that the money was spent wisely.

"We have to get the implementation right and people like myself and everyone else have to watch that closely on behalf of the community," he said.

But "shovel-ready" programs such as the youth mental health initiative Headspace should be funded immediately.

"We've got to see real transformation in those areas where we're ready to go," he said.

Programs that required work to develop and implement would take more time, Hickie said.


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