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Outcry Against Mental Health Institutions

The report of the Mental Health Council of Australia, last October, which revealed the pathetic state of the country’s mental health system, the Council //of Australian Governments (COAG) commissioned a taskforce to present a report with proposed solutions by July.

However mental health experts now feel that the earlier momentum is being lost. The Mental Health Council of Australia launched a follow-up report called Time for Service that lists particular reforms to be adopted by the governments.

According to MHCA board member and prominent psychiatrist Ian Hickie, the COAG process appeared to be proceeding without a proper planning, goals and intentions.

`We're doing something that the (state and federal) governments haven't done _ we're clearly stating at the outset what we think are the range of services required, the size of the deficits (of unmet need), the targets, and a need to develop a new, independent system of accountability,' Hickie says.

MHCA chairman Rob Knowles said it was ``essential that any new investments by Australian governments are properly targeted and integrated within a national system'', acknowledging what really was their concern.

In April Prime Minister John Howard made a surprise announcement of a five-year, $1.8 billion mental health package, targeting an expansion of Medicare access to psychologists, more mental health nurses, and increases in training places and respite care places.

However what was surprising was the fact that this announcement was made outside the COAG process just like the NSW Government's budget move last week of over $338 million in new money for mental health services, including community-based services. What mental health experts feel is that the COAG would finally be a whole lot of ad-hoc and disjointed programs.

The reported pointed out that the key goals for a functional mental health care system are services designed to preve
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