Mental health nurses say patients with severe and complex mental illness will miss out due to the capping of a popular mental health program. Linda Belardi reports.
The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses is appalled at the government’s decision to freeze funding for a program supporting people with severe mental illness in last week’s budget.
The college’s CEO, Kim Ryan, said thousands of patients with serious and complex mental illness would miss out on critical services.
The Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program allows organisations who engage mental health nurses to assist in the provision of coordinated clinical care for people with severe mental disorders.
In last week’s budget, funding has been capped at 2011-2012 levels while an external evaluation is undertaken and the outcomes of the program are considered by government.
From May 9 no new organisations or nurses have been allowed to join the program unless existing participants leave.
To discuss the future of the program and to lobby for a reversal, Ryan held urgent meetings with the office of the Minister for Health, Mark Butler, the opposition and the Greens.
In the last three years the program has grown significantly and exceeded estimated uptake.
Between April 2010 and May 2011, the program expanded by 75 per cent, delivering services to 40 000 people (4000 more than expected).
In 2011-2012 the program is projected to provide services to more than 47 000 people. $17.6 million of additional funding was allocated in the 2012-2013 budget.
Ryan said she was disappointed that the growth of the program was capped before an evaluation was completed.
“We know the program is working, we know from nurses and we know from clients. We know from the National Advisory Council on Mental Health’s case studies project report, which highlighted its effectiveness”, said Ryan.
She said there is no other program that provides clinical coordination services specifically targeted to this group. “We know this group of people frequently fall through the gaps between other services.”
Ryan said the cap on services ignored the vital role mental health nurses play in assisting those with mental illness and urged nurses, GPs and psychiatrists to support the campaign.
She said the government’s decision was not based on evidence and she eagerly anticipated an evaluation of the program due at the end of the year.Do you have an idea for a story?
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