Create healthy communities
The 2015-16 Victorian State Budget delivered some welcome initiatives to reduce inequality in health outcomes, including suicide prevention programs in LGBTI communities and health infrastructure in growth areas. This can be built on in future budgets by continued investment in preventative health programs and by growing the proportion of funding that goes to community and Aboriginal health services.
The health system needs more than hospitals, ambulances and elective surgery waiting lists. Primary and community health services are often the first point of contact for people needing care. VCOSS welcomes the investment in this budget in mental health community support and alcohol and drug treatment services. It is far more efficient to invest in these services than to treat later and more severe consequences of health issues in hospital or other crisis systems.
Initiatives at a glance
- $88.2m over four years for mental health services – including 80 new complex care packages for people with mental illness and other complex issues, such as alcohol and drug use or homelessness, and additional specialist services for older people.
- $4m over four years to strengthen responses for young people with eating disorders –including continuation of family-based treatment for up to 60 families each year.
- $5m over four years for mental health community support services – that support people with complex social and mental health issues who are at risk of not engaging in the newly reformed mental health community support services system.
- $1.1m in capital funding for Orygen Youth Mental Health – to progress planning and development of capital works.
- $30m over four years for the Ice Action Plan – a package of new initiatives including $18m over four years to expand drug treatment and rehabilitation services and $4m over four years to support families and communities affected by ice. With only about 30 per cent of people who need alcohol and drug treatment services currently receiving them, this funding will go some way to addressing demand and reducing waiting lists.
- $560m of capital funding for hospital expansion and upgrades – particularly in growth areas, including $200m for the Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital and $106.3m to upgrade Casey Hospital.
- $200m over four years for a Hospital Beds Rescue Fund – to open new hospital beds and provide capacity to deliver more hospital services.
- $970m over four years to meet demand for hospital services – including in emergency department presentations, intensive care, maternity admissions, elective surgery, palliative care and sub-acute care.
- $20m over four years in capital funding for a health service violence prevention fund – for infrastructure improvements to make public hospitals and mental health services safer for staff, patients and visitors.
- $5.9m over four years to continue funding for suicide prevention programs – for LGBTI people.
- $1m in 2015-16 for Quitline – to continue providing information and counselling to assist people to quit smoking. Reducing high smoking rates amongst low socioeconomic groups, Aboriginal people and people with mental illness are key objectives of this funding, aligning with VCOSS state budget submission recommendation to reduce smoking rates in disadvantaged communities.
- $300,000 in 2015-16 to evaluate and plan for the implementation of a real-time prescription monitoring system.
- $2.3m over four years for HIV prevention and testing – including the continuation of PRONTO! the community-based and free rapid HIV testing service in Fitzroy.
Future policy directions
- For the second year in a row, the state budget shows reduced funding for public dental services, as a result of delay in the commencement of the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for adult public dental health services, which stems from last year’s federal budget. Given the need for dental services in disadvantaged communities, VCOSS will look for a commitment to the NPA in next week’s federal budget, and we will work with the government to secure funding in future state budgets for expanded community dental services and increased availability of dental vouchers, for people facing disadvantage.
- Funding is being held in contingency for the state government’s election commitment to doctors working in secondary schools. VCOSS looks forward to working with the government to improve healthcare for students in some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged schools.
- VCOSS welcomes the state government’s continued support of Koolin Balit, the Aboriginal health strategy. The state government can further work towards achieving the goals of Koolin Balit and help close the gap in Aboriginal people’s health and wellbeing by increasing funding in future budgets to mental health specific programs in Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
The state government made a 2014 election commitment to ensure people with mental illness who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will retain access to community mental health services. VCOSS looks forward to working with the government and mental health sector to develop a clear vision and policy framework to ensure people with mental illness are not left behind in the transition to the NDIS and to maintain the strengths of Victoria’s community managed mental health system.