Mental Health Today: Mental health budget targets youth

/ May 13th, 2011/ Posted in Mental Health / No Comments »

Mental health budget targets youth

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called early intervention the centrepiece of her government’s $2.2 billion commitment to mental health unveiled in Tuesday’s budget.

Ms Gillard said over $400 million will be spent treating mental health issues in youth, when sufferers are most receptive.

Flanked by former Australian of the Year and mental health expert Patrick McGorry, Ms Gillard chatted with students at a Headspace centre in Melbourne’s west on Friday.

“It’s when people are young that they’re most likely to actually confront some of the most serious mental health conditions,” she said.
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“We understand if you can reach out to the community, if you can have people come into a space where they feel comfortable like this one, if we can have them access services early, that can make a real difference.”

The $419.7 million allocation will be spent over five years to triple the number of Headspace centres from 30 to 90.

Those centres will be backed by additional Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres, which provide more intensive treatment.

Professor McGorry, who pioneered the Headspace concept, said the funding was a huge boost to a “missing stream of care in the health system”.

He said young people suffering mental health issues can heal with timely treatment, and he called the plan the “antidote” to the failed institutionalisation system.

“(This funding) is going to strengthen our country because it’s going to mean that young people can rightfully take their place in the workforce,” Prof McGorry said.

“The big thing about mental health is that it does strike people in the most productive years of life and we’ve just accepted that until recently.”

Prof McGorry said the challenge for the private board of Headspace was to ensure the funds were spent effectively.

“These are precious dollars, as the prime minister said, they’ve been hard won, we’ve got to make sure the implementation stage is done right,” he said.

Headspace acts as a first point of contact for youth, and can provide counselling and referral services.

Labor’s Mental Health Minister Mark Butler confirmed $580 million of the $2.2 billion had been redirected from other mental health announcements.

Mr Butler said the Headspace centres would be set up in areas of need, with communities able to apply to the Headspace board.

No answer yet on mental health recommendations

The province released its official response to Judge Anne Derrick’s report on the death of Howard Hyde on Thursday.

But neither the minister of justice nor the minister of health could say how many of Derrick’s recommendations will be accepted.

Instead, the 50-page document, billed as Building Bridges, breaks up the 80 recommendations made by Derrick in December into five thematic thrusts.

Those themes — training, collaboration, use of force, supports within the criminal justice system, and mental health services — include “actions,” some already announced and underway.

“We need to be able to reassure people in this province who either have a mental health disorder or are concerned about these issues,” Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said at a press conference.

“The purpose of this response is designed to put in place, fill gaps, services, better training, better communication, better collaboration between (the departments of health and justice).”

How that collaboration will look will largely have to wait until the province releases its mental health and addictions strategy this fall.

Until then, there are few details, including any new investments available.

Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, called the response an “excellent first step.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done yet, particularly the development of a mental health strategy for Nova Scotia,” said Ayer.

“We are waiting for that, and obviously, that’s going to be an important document in terms of how they’re going to move forward in terms of resourcing additional funds for mental health.”

Macarthur mental health groups welcome Federal Budget’s $2.2 billion

MACARTHUR mental health support group Beautiful Minds has applauded the $2.2 billion five-year mental health package announced as part of the Federal Budget last Tuesday.

Beautiful Minds founder Sandra McDonald congratulated the government on its investment but questioned how much funding would be poured into the Macarthur region.

“Mental health is such an under-funded area so to get an extra $1.5 billion will help address this serious lack of funding in our health system,” she said.

“People with mental illness need to be treated fairly so it’s great to see this funding coming through but I want to know how much of that will flow through to the Macarthur region.”

Mrs McDonald said staffing of mental health facilities was a big issue which needed to be addressed with the new funding. She said the Campbelltown Community Mental Health Centre had 60 staff catering to 2000 clients.

“We have such a need out here for that funding and I’d like to see additional staffing out here to help deal with mental health issues,” Mrs McDonald said.

City mental health clinic in default on bank loans

One of Baltimore’s largest providers of drug treatment services is in default on loans of up to $2.5 million, its bank says, raising questions about the financial well-being of a clinic that treats hundreds of addicts in the city.

Bank of America is suing Baltimore Behavioral Health Inc. for access to its financial records, alleging that the West Pratt Street clinic is in default and has refused to provide “critical financial information.” The bank also claims that clinic funds paid for board members’ monthly spa services, boat repairs and personal mortgage payments, an accusation that one BBH board member dismissed as unsupported “hype.”

The bank’s lawsuit, filed April 29 in Baltimore Circuit Court, is the latest in a string of recent challenges for BBH. Its revenue has dropped sharply since late 2009, when state mental health officials clamped down on its ability to bill for high-cost treatment, leading to layoffs and prompting the clinic to seek a buyer for its campus.

In late December, the U.S. Department of Labor opened an inquiry into BBH’s employee retirement plan after former workers said money deducted from their paychecks as far back as 2009 never reached their retirement plan accounts. A department spokesman this week declined to comment.

BBH, a private clinic that has received $65 million in government payments over the past five years, specializes in treating patients with both mental illness and drug addiction, mostly billing the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. It says it treats 150 people a day, down from 225 a year ago.

The clinic was the subject of a Baltimore Sun investigation last year that revealed unusually high Medicaid billings and detailed the nonprofit organization’s control by several family members earning six-figure salaries.

Terry T. Brown, a BBH vice president, said the clinic remains committed to treating patients at its Southwest Baltimore campus. To raise needed cash, BBH hopes to sell its buildings and then lease back some space, he said. The adjacent B&O Railroad Museum has shown interest in buying the property.

“I’m hoping we’re viable to withstand the changes in our economic situation,” Brown said.

Bank of America says it is demanding access to the clinic’s books to conduct an audit. It claims the clinic has denied bank officials their contractual right to review those financial records for the past nine months.

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