Media Release: ACT Budget increases mental health spending, but fails to target prevention

Media Release: ACT Budget increases mental health spending, but fails to target prevention

4 June 2019, 4.30pm – For Immediate Release

ACT’s 2019/20 budget delivers investment in crisis mental health services, but will do little to keep people out of hospital.

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT) welcomes new ACT Government investment in mental health in the 2019/20 Budget, but rues a lost opportunity to focus on prevention and early intervention.

“The investments in the budget will ease pressures in acute and inpatient services, but won’t do much to keep people well and out of hospital”, said Simon Viereck, Executive Officer of MHCC ACT. “It’s a bit of a lost opportunity to instead divert people away from an acute inpatient experience by intervening earlier and providing community based supports”.

“Last year’s budget delivered strong investment in community based accommodation supports, but we still see gaps in the types of supports that help people stay well on a day to day basis and avoid episodes of illness and hospitalisation”, said Mr Viereck.

$6.98 million over four years will go to increased staffing in the Adult Mental Health Unit at Canberra Hospital.

“This recognises that the Unit is running over capacity and effectively brings the staffing levels up to the level of de facto bed occupancy”, said Mr Viereck, “it’s doesn’t deliver more service, but should improve the quality of service”.

The Budget also funds the establishment of an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) service at the Canberra Hospital.

“We are concerned by this initiative”, Mr Viereck said, “ECT is an effective last option treatment for some people, but we haven’t seen any indication that consumers have been asking for better access to this treatment”.

The remainder of the $24.2 million investment go to better support for people with living mental illness on bail to avoid reoffending, more eating disorder services, and capacity building supports for carers and families among other things.

“These are positive investments targeting known gaps and challenges, which we welcome”, Mr. Viereck said. “Individuals with eating disorders and their families have long been advocating for more services”, he continued, “however we would have liked to see these investments in clinical supports complemented by investments in much needed community based psychosocial supports.”

“With a significant service planning process underway at the moment, we can understand a possible hesitation to invest heavily in new initiatives”, Mr Viereck said, “but we would hope that the Government is planning ahead for new strong investment in early intervention and prevention and a comprehensive mental health system for everyone in next year’s budget.

Media Contact: Simon Viereck, 0420 321 328,

MHCC ACT is the peak body for community mental health services in the ACT

View this media release online:


Tel: 02 6249 7756 or

0483 212 844

Room 1.06, Level 1, The Griffin Centre,
20 Genge Street
Canberra City ACT 2601

ABN: 22 510 998 138


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