New youth mental health centres on the way

The new Health Minister has made an announcment that may be of interest (my thoughts after the details):

“Young people at risk of mental health and drug and alcohol problems will benefit from the establishment of 20 new headspace Communities of Youth Services centres throughout Australia.

Headspace, Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, is funded by the Australian Government to provide people aged 12 to 25 with better mental health support, as well as help for drug and alcohol problems. Establishing new local youth mental health services is an important means of providing this support.

Headspace is providing almost $19 million to set up the 20 new centres, most of which will be located in regional and rural areas.

There is a pressing need for such centres, with as many as one young Australian in four having a mental health problem in any 12-month period. There are also strong links between drug and alcohol abuse and mental health problems.

The Rudd Labor Government is focused on the importance of prevention and early intervention in all areas of health, including mental health. This investment is an important contribution towards ensuring the long-term wellness of the wider Australian community, which will deliver personal, social and economic benefits.

For example, we know from a recent Productivity Commission report that mental or nervous conditions have dramatic effects on workforce participation – in fact, a greater effect than cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

Health workers know that early intervention and support are vital for young people in trying to manage mental health problems.

The need for more youth services is particularly urgent in regional and rural Australia, where many communities continue to struggle with the impact of drought and high unemployment. Fourteen of the 20 new centres I am announcing today are located in regional and rural communities.

Regional and rural Australia have often suffered from a lack of health services. This investment will help tackle that gap.

Those areas include the Hunter, Riverina and Central West of New South Wales, Gippsland, the south-west and the Mornington Peninsula region in Victoria, and the rapidly growing twin cities region of Townsville and Thuringowa in Queensland.

Each centre funded under this round will receive almost $1 million to cover the costs of establishment, and to help better coordinate youth mental health and drug and alcohol support services throughout each region.

The Government is committed to working with state and territory governments to deliver better mental health services for all Australians.”

It’s a nice start but that’s about it – $19 million for 20 centres isn’t going to buy a hell of a lot. Here’s hoping they’re funded well enough to actually be able to demonstrate some outcomes. There’s nothing worse than a token effort in any health area.