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ACT Budget misses opportunity for cost-effective, recovery-oriented mental health strategies  


Media release

The ACT government rightly places wellbeing at the centre of their Budget measures. That it recognises mental health as key is commendable. However, this budget is a missed opportunity for providing cost-efficient care that prevents mental ill-health and enables people to recover. 

CEO of Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT), Melanie Poole says, “The ACT government has increased per capita funding for mental health since 2014, which is a commendable track record. But we call on the government to reconsider where that money is spent – and where it could be better spent.” 

Most of the ACT government expenditure on mental health goes to acute, hospital-based services. Per capita funding of community-managed mental health services, by contrast, has almost halved since the implementation of the NDIS. 

“People are falling through the cracks,” says Ms Poole. “An estimated 2,500 ACT residents with complex and severe mental health issues are not currently receiving NDIS or any other government-funded psychosocial supports. This compounds vulnerability and distress, meaning that for too many Canberrans, mental health care means attending Emergency Departments. 

“Acute hospital settings – while a necessary component of the mental health system – are not an ideal place to receive care. It takes people away from their homes; their daily lives; their friends, families, and pets. It means their distress has escalated to crisis point. It is also vastly more expensive than community-based options.” 

The community-managed sector is well-placed to provide practical and supportive resources such as housing and domestic violence support. Service users can gain a sense of belonging and interact with peers who have survived similar challenges. Prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation, and recovery-oriented services help people before and after they experience a mental health crisis. 

The budget has delivered a modest increase to community-based residential accommodation, and some funding for community-based services. “This funding is promising but piecemeal and there’s ample opportunity for improvement,” says Ms Poole. 

“For instance, there is nothing in this budget to provide psychological and social support for for adults with more complex mental health needs, or for older peoples’ mental health. There is also a concerning lack of detail on key measures such as funding for the mental health workforce. 

“We look forward to working with the ACT government to implement person-centred, recovery-oriented, cost-effective strategies to improve the wellbeing of Canberrans.” 

Media contact: Erin Stewart, Media and Communications Manager, 0493 388 756 |

MHCC ACT is the peak body for community-managed mental health services in the ACT. Find out more about MHCC ACT at

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