BEING – Mental Health Consumers’ recent calls for a consumer-centric approach to the state budget went largely unanswered when the budget was released last week. While the government states their investment in health demonstrates “the NSW Government’s commitment to ensuring world-class health services for the community”, we question this pledge in relation to mental health support services.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet states a record $10.9 billion spend in mental health services over the next four years “focuses on improving the lives of people living in NSW with mental illness by delivering better care both in hospitals and in the community, by providing support for individuals, carers and wider family”.

While there were some positive initiatives to come from this budget, BEING – Mental Health Consumers believes more needs to be done to support people to live and recover in the community.

Key mental health funding summarised below:

  1. $109 million over four years for 25 “Safeguards” Child and Adolescent Mental Health Response Teams across NSW.

We welcome additional funding being directed towards child and adolescent mental health, especially given the significant impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health.

  1. $36.4 million over four years for 57 mental health Response and Recovery Specialists in rural and regional NSW.

These funds dedicated to Rural Response and Recovery Specialists are critical in providing crisis and recovery support to those struggling with the mental health impacts of fires, droughts and plagues. We are particularly gratified that this funding includes further support for 27 FTE Farmgate Counsellors and Drought Peer Support Workers. It reminds us of the many and varied challenges that have impacted members of regional and rural communities across NSW.

  1. $25.8 million over four years to extend the Police Ambulance and Clinical Early Response model, embedding mental health clinicians with first responders.

The expansion of the PACER model will help to improve service provision for those in crisis. Encounters with police and ambulance services can be particularly difficult for people with lived experience and those experiencing emotional distress. The inclusion of staff with mental health expertise will assist to ensure that interactions with first responders are supportive, rather than traumatic. While we welcome this funding, we highlight the need for investment in more pre-crisis supports such as peer support services and warmline initiatives, to support people who live with mental health issues to live in the community and prevent them reaching the point of crisis.

BEING – Mental Health Consumers also notes the additional funds directed towards groups at high risk of mental health issues, including LGBTQI+ people, survivors of domestic violence and their children, and the funding of additional support services for rough sleepers.

  • $3 million to establish ACON’s LGBTQI+ health centre
  • An extra $94 million for domestic violence support to prevent survivors of domestic violence and their children being forced from their homes.
  • An additional 250 wraparound service packages and 100 new homes in the Together Home Program for rough sleepers

Overall, the NSW State Budget has funded some welcome initiatives for mental health, however more needs to be done to provide greater choice of services for people living with mental health issues.

CEO, Irene Gallagher, says “this budget was an opportunity for the NSW Government to provide much-needed substantial backing for consumer-led initiatives. Such investment would allow for the provision of more pre-crisis supports for mental health consumers while also supporting the development and growth of a sustainable and supported peer workforce.”

While overall this budget has provided or expanded funding in a number of important areas, BEING – Mental Health Consumers calls for more significant and reliable funding for consumer-led initiatives and peer-run support services. This will provide consumers with greater choice and the opportunity to seek support before they reach the point of crisis. By investing in peer-run services, we recognise the importance of offering alternative and complementary supports to traditional clinical services.