MHCA CEO's Weekly Update - 6 June
Partners in Recovery Annual Meeting
I write this update today from the Partners in Recovery annual Meeting in Sydney. The forum brings together services delivering PIR services from across the country. It was encouraging to hear so many positive success stories emerging from the program (which is really just getting underway) but my presentation (and others) stressed the need for the program to also have an impact of system reform if it is ultimately to be judged as successful.
We have been learning more details about the recent Budget announcements including some news about the following issues:
- Activity Based Funding changes
- Changes to the Medicare safety net
- Participation requirements for Newstart recipients
As information comes to hand, we are preparing an analysis of the impact of a number of Budget measures. This analysis will allow us to inform members of parliament about the impact of various mesaures on those who experience mental illness, and will also allow us to develop alternative arrangements where necessary.
This is what we have learned to date…
Activity Based Funding
Following the Community Affairs Committee Senate Estimates hearing this week it is now apparent that Activity Based Funding (ABF) will continue for the next three years and cease in 2017-18. From 2017-18 onwards, the Government will return to block funding hospitals, indexing this funding to CPI and population growth. However, it will up to each State and Territory as to whether they wish to adopt ABF for their own purposes – an eventuality that looks likely in at least some jurisdictions. That would mean that the role of the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) would continue, although IHPA’s functions may be rolled into the Commonwealth Department of Health pending discussions over the next 12 months between the Commonwealth and States.
In addition, the Government has also decided not to pay ‘top-up funding’ to States and Territories. This funding was paid in addition to the Health Specific Purpose Payment that was guaranteed if States were able to achieve efficiencies through hospital management. The Government believes that the measure was essentially inequitable because it would provide greater rewards for jurisdictions which are relatively more inefficient than others.
Medicare safety net amendments
The Government has also introduced an amendment to the Health Insurance Act that seeks to increase the general threshold of the Extended Medicare Safety Net to $2000 from 1 January 2015. This increase is nearly double the current threshold.
People with serious mental illness often face the dual challenge of living on a low income and having to pay high out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment. We would be concerned if this Budget measure, by raising financial barriers to getting the right help at the right time, contributes to worse mental health outcomes and increases pressures on acute services. We have similar concerns about the proposed $7 GP co-payment - which of course has been the source of much public debate and which could further undermine the capacity of people to seek professional help.
Newstart participation requirements
Estimates hearings this week also revealed that some people under 30 on Newstart could be removed from support for 8 months or more – that is, even longer than the 6 months that was originally announced in the Budget. This is because the new 8 week non-payment penalty, a measure now before parliament, will apply to recipients of designated payments in all age groups. Its intersection with the 6-month ‘earn or learn’ waiting period for Newstart payments means that people aged under 30 years of age could be left with no income support for the majority of the year. Last year, Centrelink indicated they had applied 14,296 ‘No Show No Pay’ penalties to job seekers with a known ‘vulnerability indicator’ in the previous year, including 4,019 with psychiatric problems or mental illness. It is unclear if the same problems may confront recipients of the Disability Support Pension. We eagerly await the release of the first public report from the McClure welfare review, which we gather is imminent.
Yesterday and today our Director of Policy and Projects Josh Fear attended a meeting of the Mental Health Information Strategy Standing Committee (MHISSC), which provides advice on information and data issues to the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Principal Committee of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. MHISSC brings together jurisdictional representatives with responsibility for mental health information management and data collection systems, members with technical expertise in mental health data collection and reporting, and key stakeholders including consumers, carers, clinicians, peak bodies and key organisations.
NDIS Capacity Building Project update
On 4 June Liz Ruck and Travis Gilbert from our Policy Team attended the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT Conference to hear the keynote address from Eddie Bartnik, Strategic Adviser to the NDIA who discussed the delivery of mental health supports and services under the NDIS. The presentation was well received, and provided participants with an outline of where Eddie plans to focus his energies to improve the NDIS interface with mental health and obtain the best possible outcomes for mental health consumers, carers and service providers. I also addressed delegates about the interaction between the NDIS and the mental health system and some of the challenges we face aligning the two.
On Thurs 12 June Liz will be in Adelaide to present at a joint MHCA, Mental Health Coalition of South Australia and National Disability Services workshop on NDIS Organisational Readiness. Consumers, carers and policy makers are welcome to attend. For more information please visit the website.
NMHCCF Advocacy Briefs
The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF) has recently published two revised Advocacy Briefs, one on Cultural and Linguistically Diverse Mental Health and another on Privacy and Confidentiality. NMHCCF Advocacy Briefs are documents designed to enable consumers and carers to better understand and comment on key issues in mental health and include key points and recommendations. Please visit the NMHCCF website to download the briefs.
Name Change - Mental Health Australia
As advised in previous updates, in April our members voted to change our name to Mental Health Australia. While the administrative tasks associated with this change are all happening behind the scenes we have also engaged a graphic design company to update our corporate logo and brand. You will hear more about this change in coming months in the lead up to when we open our doors as Mental Health Australia.
Perspectives - new bi-monthly publication
The first edition of our new bi-monthly online publication, Perspectives, will be launched next week. Thank you to the members who have provided articles discussing some of the major issues facing the mental health sector. If you are a member and would like to contribute content to the publication please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Consumer Peak Organisation update
Consumer Reference Group member Wayne Oldfield provides this month’s update on progress to establishing the new Consumer Peak Organisation. Wayne discusses the impact of recent Budget announcements on funding arrangements for the project, progress on Board recruitment and the naming of the new organisation. You can download the full update from the website.
Madness Made Me - A Memoir
This is a new publication describing the incredible journey of one of New Zealand’s three Mental Health Commissioners (and long time friend of the Mental Health Council of Australia), Mary O’Hagan. Through her own experience, Mary beleives the mental health system and society did more harm than good. Madness Made Me is a myth-busting account of madness and our customary responses to it through the lens of lived experience. The memoir is available as an eBook or paperback.
TheMHS Conference 2014 - What We Share Makes Us Strong
TheMHS Conference is the largest and longest running multidisciplinary mental health conference in Australasia. This year’s Conference will be held at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre on August 26–29. Keynote speakers include Pat Bracken, Melody Riefer and Kenneth Thompson. Full details including registration information are available from the website.
Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium
The number of Australians experiencing mental health problems in rural and remote areas is estimated to be comparable to major urban centres. However, the rural and remote community faces a greater challenge with limited access to mental health services and support. The Symposium theme, The Practitioner’s Voice, seeks to give voice to those practitioners who are faced with these challenges on a regular basis. Registrations are now open to attend this great event, being held in Albury from 12-14 November. Full details are available on the website.
ReachOut.com Virtual Tour
Our friends at ReachOut.com are currently seeking donations to help fund a Virtual Tour to show policy makers that an online mental health service works. The Virtual Tour will be a video simulation showing exactly how four young people have used ReachOut.com to help them deal with anxiety, a drinking problem, questions about sexuality and suicidal thoughts. Will you help to get this project off the ground by chipping in a few bucks? If so, please visit the website for more details.
Lifeline Stress Down Day - 25 July
This year’s Stress Down Day is being celebrated on Friday 25 July. A Lifeline initiative, Stress Down Day is a fun and easy way to reduce stress by encouraging us all to have a laugh. Lifeline have a list of activities that you can do on the day to help raise funds and reduce stress including hosting a morning tea, holding a worst dad joke competition or a team yoga session. Visit the website for more details.
Chief Executive Officer