Speaker to argue mental health reform requires funds for NGOs

Australian governments must immediately allocate an extra $500 million each year to non-government agencies to reverse the nation's mental health problems, the World Day of the Sick conference will be told in Adelaide this morning.

On the eve of the historic Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting to implement a national mental health strategy, Professor Ian Hickie will warn that the community must not be "fobbed off with the usual talkfest and no action" on mental health.

A keynote speaker at the conference, Professor Hickie said the COAG must commit to increasing funding for mental health and to diverting more health funding from public hospitals towards creating stronger partnerships with non-government organisations.

"The COAG agreement on mental health reform is a fantastic first step, but without extra funding and a new funding scheme, we're doomed," warned Professor Hickie, executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney.

"If they actually just give us a bunch of bureaucratic speak and no extra investment then we've failed again. We've been fobbed off with the usual talkfest and no action. The action is in the dollars and in the systems. There has to be new dollars and new systems."

He said state, territory and federal governments must increase their yearly recurrent expenditure on mental health services by at least $2 billion by 2010. He said graduated funding increases were needed this budget cycle with $250 million from the states and territories matched by $250 million from the Commonwealth.

Professor Hickie will be addressing more than 200 mental health professionals and Catholic clergy from across the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. The conference opens a three-day World Day of the Sick event being held in Adelaide for the first time. Hosted annually by a different continent, World Day of the Sick aims to highlight the plight of the sick and recognise their carers. Pope Benedict XVI has chosen mental health as the focus for the 2006 event, describing the issue as "a real and authentic social-health care emergency" requiring immediate public attention.

Professor Hickie will deliver his address at 11:00 am Adelaide time in Hall F at the Adelaide Convention Centre, with a media conference afterwards.

Funding boost to non-government groups vital for mental health reform (Catholic Communications Adelaide 9/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Day of the Sick
Apostolic Penitentiary | Decree according to which Special Indulgences are conceded on occasion of the «14th World Day of the Sick» (January 18, 2006)

Pope authorises indulgences for Adelaide Day of Sick (CathNews 6/2/06)
Church "drawn into politics" by accepting Govt hospitality (CathNews 1/2/06)
Wollongong priest to link mental health with human dignity (CathNews 24/1/06)
Personalities aid World Day of Sick mental illness focus (CathNews 9/1/06)
Pope announces mental health focus for Adelaide World Day of Sick (CathNews 9/12/05)
Adelaide to host World Day of the Sick (CathNews 30/9/05)

9 Feb 2006