States pressed over mental health Print
Written by AAP   

The Age
April 6, 2006 - 8:22AM

The states will come under pressure to match the federal government's $1.8 billion pledge to the ailing mental health sector.

Yesterday, the government unveiled its plan to tackle the crisis in Australia's mental health system, to be rolled out over five years.

The package includes expanding Medicare to allow more mentally-ill people to see a psychologist on referral from a doctor.

Families and carers will receive extra support, including 650 new respite places.

Up to 900 new personal helpers will assist mentally ill Australians cope with daily life and more funding will go to a community awareness program, focusing on the link between drug abuse and mental illness.

But experts in the field say the money is not enough and Prime Minister John Howard has already said he wants the states to spend more.

The Northern Territory government has already said it plans to increase spending on mental health in its May budget, but NSW made no significant commitments.

Queensland also shied away from locking itself into any extra funding.