Mentally ill Victorians could be cut off from vital services

Up to 10,000 mentally ill Victorians could be cut off from vital health services because they do not meet tough eligibility guidelines for the national disability insurance scheme, an alliance has warned.

A group of 20 mental health organisations are urging the state government and opposition to commit $80 million over the next four years to continue the state’s community-based mental health services.

The group, who will unveil their state election platform at a forum on Wednesday, have raised concerns about most of Victoria’s community-based mental health services being rolled into the NDIS.

They estimate that up to 10,000 Victorians who use government-funded community mental health services will not be able to access the NDIS because they cannot demonstrate they have a “significant and enduring psychosocial disability”.

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Kim Koop, chief executive of peak community mental health agency VICSERV, said the NDIS was not a “true replacement” for the current system.

“The NDIS has very clear eligibility criteria and a different purpose. We are talking about continuing a service for people that aren’t eligible for the NDIS but still need psychosocial support outside of hospital. That needs to be part of any incoming government’s plan,” she said.

Ms Koop said the Barwon NDIS launch site had already revealed “significant gaps” for people with a mental illness.

“We are seeing some people who are not eligible for the NDIS. Both the NDIS and the service providers in the region want to know what will sit between the NDIS and acute hospitals.”

Vulnerable groups including the homeless would be the hardest hit because they may not have the resources to access the scheme, she said.

The alliance is also calling for more stable housing for people with a mental illness, and estimates that 42 per cent of people with a mental illness are homeless or living in unstable housing.

They have also asked the government to create a carer support strategy, and increase support funding for carers. They also want to increase the proportion of the workforce who have experienced a mental illness from 0.3 to 10 per cent.

Nathan Grixti, an advocate at the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council, said consumers played an important role in shaping the workforce.

“They are able to disclose and share their experience in the workforce, and provide empathy and insight into how to navigate the system,” he said.

Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the Napthine government had advocated strongly for the NDIS to include people with a mental illness.

“The Barwon trial is informing the design of the final scheme and we are strongly advocating to the Commonwealth Government to ensure that mental health clients are provided enhanced and targeted services.”

She said the state government had increased funding for community mental health services by 30 per cent.

It has also provided VICSERV with $150,000 to ensure community mental health clients in Barwon are “fully transitioned” to the NDIS.

The alliance includes the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council, VICSERV, Victorian Council of Social Service, CarersVic, Council to Homeless Persons, MIND Australia, Orygen Youth Mental Health and Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria.

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Topics:
Medical, Health General, Mental Health, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Author:
Henrietta Cook

Source:
The Age

Date published:
Wed 10th Sep, 2014