Building the Case for Mental Health Reform in Australia

A Review of Expenditure and System Design

Background Mental illness is a significant challenge in Australia. Yet despite the significant policy attention and substantial additional funding to mental health over the past two decades, the mental health and social services systems remains highly fragmented.

In 2012 Medibank commissioned the Nous Group to analyse the total direct expenditure; both health and non-health, on supporting people with mental illness, to examine the structure of the Australian system; and review domestic and international examples in which integrated approaches to mental health care and social services are able to deliver better health outcomes for consumers and improved value for payors.

Findings Total direct expenditure on supporting people with a mental illness in Australia is at least $28.6 billion per year, far exceeding previous estimates. This figure is equivalent to 2.2% of Australia’s GDP. This explicitly excludes indirect expenditure such as lost productivity. Poor system design compounds Australia’s mental health challenges and it is impossible to tell if Australia is spending the right amount of money to support people with mental illness and if this money is being spent in the right areas.

New initiatives add complexity to an already fragmented system and fail to address the critical issue of system design. The fragmentation of Australia’s mental health system is replicated globally; however a review of reforms in Australia and internationally suggests some elements to inform an improved mental health service system. Discussion With mental health service provision a continuing challenge, major system level structural and funding changes are needed. Australia has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in system redesign, delivering better quality and outcomes at sustainable levels.

Mr Matthew Cullen, Group Executive, Medibank Health Solutions will present at the 14th International Mental Health Conference at the Outrigger Hotel, Surfers Paradise on Monday the 5th and Tuesday the 6th of August 2013.

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