Tipping the scales: the Western Australian State Budget 2021-2022

By Denise Cumming

13 September 2021

The COVID pandemic is making island states of us all at the moment, but an unexpected silver lining might be the increased attention to mental health reform that governments are displaying. The pandemic’s impact on the mental health of the general community has made it a national talking point and priority. It may just bring with it an appetite to speed up the long overdue reform and modernisation of our mental health systems.

Announced on Thursday, the Western Australian State Budget certainly has some commitments that augur well.

We are particularly pleased to see funding for the establishment of new Step Up/Step Down facilities across Western Australia and for the continuation and expansion of Active Recovery Teams.

Both of these initiatives are important alternatives to hospitalisation, giving people the support they need to recover safely in the community.

More safe places to recover in the community

Continuing to address the need for more community-based services, funding of $25.5 million was allocated for a Step Up/Step Down service to provide short-term residential support. Further, funding was committed for a 10-bed youth-specific Step Up/Step Down with 24/7 psychosocial and clinical supports.

The value of a safe space to recover from mental ill health cannot be underestimated. Step Up/Step Down residential services offer safe and nurturing environments that allow people the time and space to get better and the support to build their skills and confidence. They operate as a step down from a hospital stay or as a step up to avoid hospital admittance.

Funding of $27.7 million was also committed for a youth long-term housing and psychosocial support package to help young people live in the community whilst accessing mental health supports.

Mind and AHURI’s Trajectories research into housing and mental health confirms our practice experience that safe and stable housing is the foundation for mental health recovery. This is why Mind is committed to providing a range of housing support options, from short term residential supports to longer term supported independent living options such as we provide with our Haven building program.

We’re pleased to see commitment to providing long-term housing and psychosocial support to young West Australians experiencing mental ill health. This kind of early intervention can make all the difference in preventing mental health crises experienced in youth from becoming life-defining conditions. With the right support, young people at risk can achieve long term, transformative recovery.

More support to recover in the community

The Budget has allocated $37 million funding towards Active Recovery Teams to support people to recover in the community following a hospital stay, along with an uplift to adult and youth community treatment services. This will mean more people have support to build their confidence to manage their mental health issues while avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.

Mind was involved in the proof of concept design of the pilot for this new program and we are very pleased to see its success recognised with continued funding for its expansion.

The program provides participants with intensive, flexible support and treatment over a period of 90 days. Support is delivered by a multidisciplinary team providing both clinical and psychosocial support. Delivering services in these partnerships allows people to receive coordinated, holistic care. This kind of collaboration and partnership is a cornerstone of Mind’s service ethos.

The transition from hospital to life in the community for someone with mental ill-health is a precarious one and having help to step back into the community after being in hospital will provide many people with the means to successfully transition and achieve long-term recovery.

The scales are tipping

We’re pleased to see election commitments being followed-through, but as the Western Australian Mental Health Commission’s Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015-2025 points out, there is a still a need for substantial growth in mental health community support and treatment in Western Australia.

This Budget is the start of tipping the scales towards a resourcing level compatible with the rest of the country and an optimal balance of care – a balance that sees people able to access quality care in the community, when and where they need it.

Denise Cumming is Mind Australia's Executive Director, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia Operations.