To: Minister for Mental Health Mr Mark Butler
Stop the Freeze on Mental Health
Dear minister we request a reversal of your recent budget decision to block further expansion of the mental health nurse incentive program.
Why is this important?
The Mental Health nurse Incentive Program implemented in 2006, has kept many people suffering severe mental illness out of hospital and helped them back into the workforce and to lead meaningful social lives. Australia wide the program has provided services to 40,000 people with severe mental illness in 2010 and in the last year close to 47,000 people. Benefiting not only individuals, but their families and community, all at low cost to the public purse.
From the budget announcement (as of 8th May 2012) it seems that a surplus is more important than some of the community’s most vulnerable people, funding to this program has been frozen.
The Government has written to the College and has explained that ‘Maintaining MHNIP services at 2011-2012 levels means that from 9 May 2012 no new organisations or nurses can join the program unless existing participants leave, and organisations and nurses will need to maintain client services and sessions at existing levels’ (Australian College of Mental Health Nurses). This decision has been made without conducting a full evaluation of the program and without sufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the usefulness of the care being provided. And we believe that this decision has been based upon poor evidence.
Freezing the program means that no additional mental health nurses or organisations hoping to deliver services can provide this much needed program. The mental health nurse incentive program has been designed specifically to provide high quality health care for the severely ill and the government’s decision is blocking the extension of this program and preventing nurses from caring for some of our communities most vulnerable people.
Freezing our funding will ultimately result in reducing service for the mentally ill placing greater pressure upon our already overwhelmed emergency departments and community mental health teams.
Minister there is quite obviously a need for this program and this is a very short sighted financial measure that is not being made in the best interests of the people who need this care.
Nurses are at the front line and are prepared to deliver.
It’s about time that the government got behind nurses and serious about care for the mentally ill.