15 November 2010
Andrew asks the Prime Minister to commit to better fund early psychosis prevention and intervention centres.
Mr WILKIE (3:08 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission recommends building early psychosis prevention and intervention centres, or EPPICs—which should not be confused with the quite separate headspace program. The government is contributing $25 million towards EPPIC, but this is only enough to build what Patrick McGorry describes as ‘a heavily diluted cardboard cut-out service lacking many of the core features of EPPIC’. Considering that only a third of mental health cases are treated in Australia currently and that most new cases appear before age 25, will you now commit to better fund the EPPIC program?
Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Denison for his question and know that he, like many other Australians, is concerned about mental health questions and ensuring services are available and funded. Like the member for Denison, I am a big admirer of the work of Pat McGorry. He is actually a fair old legend in the part of the world that I come from, Melbourne’s west, where many of the services that he has become most famous for were first instigated and trialled. I am therefore well aware of the very good work done at EPPICs and the fact that the most critical burden of disease for the most profound mental illnesses impacts on our young people and that, if you are going to have one of these profound conditions, it is very likely to manifest when you are still in your teenage years or a young adult. So intervention at that stage does pay itself back over a lifetime. I am well aware of that, and the government is committed, with our new Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, to building on work done in the previous period of government to improve mental health services.
I agree that Australians are asking us to look again at this area and look at what more can be done. I want to say to the member that, as a government, we have almost tripled funding for mental health programs, to $1.4 billion over the next four years. That includes a $450 million new investment announced by the government over the course of this year. As part of our National Health and Hospitals Network package, the government has committed $25.5 million to expand the EPPIC model outside Victoria. We have also funded up to an additional 30 headspace youth-friendly services to support a further 20,000 young people. During the recent election campaign, we also promised an extra $274 million to redouble our efforts on suicide prevention. As the member may well be aware, we lose more Australians each year to suicide than we do through our road toll, so suicide prevention is a critical problem for Australia. But I do understand the member’s concern is genuine and, as a government, we do understand that in mental health we have got more work to do. Whilst I am not in a position to say to the member now that we are able to provide more funding at this stage for EPPICs, I can assure him that the minister for mental health is working on building on our earlier reforms and we are very open to ideas from the member for Denison as we do that.