High Cost of Mental Health Revealed
9 May 2013 at 11:28 am
A new report, by private health insurer Medibank, has estimated the overall cost of supporting people with mental illness in Australia at $28.6 billion per year.
And the Medibank/Nous Group report says that while substantial funding is being directed at mental health, the system needs to be better coordinated.
The report says previous research has largely limited the analysis to health expenditure only, such as the AIHW’s $6.3 billion estimate.
However, it says, the new research, The Case for Mental Health Reform in Australia: a Review of Expenditure and System Design, is four times this figure as it takes a whole-of-system look at expenditure on supporting people with a mental illness in Australia, including the activities that lie outside hospital services and community and public health services.
The research was launched in partnership with depression prevention Not for Profit, beyondblue and highlights that, whilst both policy attention and new funding are being directed towards mental health, there are still significant numbers of mentally ill people not seeking help or receiving appropriate treatment.
Dr Matthew Cullen, Group Executive of Medibank Health Solutions and a practising psychiatrist said: “The critical issue with mental illness treatment in Australia is that individuals with mental health needs are not receiving adequate support because the system is fragmented and uncoordinated.
“People fall between the gaps of the healthcare system and the social services systems, and even between the various components of the social services system such as housing and income support.
“We need to address these gaps urgently. While governments since the 1990s deserve credit for lifting the effort, we can do much more to coordinate care for our mentally ill.”
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO says the report is great news for government.
“It shows that the issue is not how much is being spent on mental health, but how the money is being spent.
“The current system is complex, fragmented and very hard for users to navigate, especially as they have mental health issues, which can make planning and decision making very difficult.”
“Historically, specialist mental health support has been provided by state governments in Australia, with housing support provided by different departments and programs like income support and employment services provided by the federal government. This meant that people with mental illness have to grapple with multiple layers of bureaucracy in order to get the support they need.
“Australia urgently needs reform to make it easier for people to get the information, services and support they need in a coordinated and timely fashion,” Carnell said.
Dr Cullen believes that Australia has an opportunity to lead the world in end-to-end mental health system redesign to deliver better quality and outcomes at a lower cost.
“Major system changes are needed, covering detection to diagnosis to treatment to ongoing recovery. Crucially, the system needs to integrate health and non-health support and funding.”