Victoria won't match mental health cash Print
Written by AAP   

The Age
April 6, 2006 - 11:18A

Victoria won't match its share of the federal government's $1.8 billion pledge to tackle the mental health system crisis, the state government says.

But it says it will increase spending in the next budget.

Victorian Treasurer John Brumby said the federal government was playing "catch up" with Victoria, which had allocated significant additional funds last year.

"These funds yesterday were announced without consultation with the states, so we won't be matching their proposals dollar for dollar," he told ABC radio.

"But I can tell you, as in last year's budget, there was additional funding for mental health and in this year's budget there will also be additional funding for health generally, and specifically for mental health."

Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said the federal initiative was "marvellous", as it was the first recognition that all levels of government had a part to play

"This has largely been the states' responsibility, and now this is the first substantial thing that the Commonwealth has put into this area," she told ABC radio.

Ms Pike said Victoria increased its mental health spending by $180 million to $750 million in the last budget, and would allocate more money this year.

"We have said that we will continue to grow the amount of new, additional, money into mental health every year," she said.

The federal government package, to be rolled out over five years, includes expanding Medicare to allow more mentally ill people to see a psychologist on referral from a doctor, 650 new respite places and up to 900 new personal helpers to assist mentally ill Australians cope with daily life.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday said he wanted the states to also spend more, saying there were too many gaps in mental health care in Australia and highlighting some that fell in the states' jurisdiction.

Today, federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said the states had to lift their game and provide more respite care and beds for psychiatric patients.

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.

Meanwhile, the Doctors Reform Society today welcomed the funding boost as an indication that mental health was finally being recognised as a significant issue.

"The amount committed is only one quarter of that recommended to address the problem but it is a start," president Dr Tim Woodruff said.

Anglicare Victoria said the next step was for the government to come up with a detailed and effective plan to make sure the money was put to good use.

Both organisations called on the states to follow the federal government's lead. AAP