In response to repeated inquiries revealing a profound crisis in the provision of mental health care services,1 Australia has committed to spending around $8 billion of new money on mental health since 2006. Few would argue that this investment was long overdue, given the significant gap between the funding mental health receives ($5.8 billion2 out of $113 billion of total health expenditure in the 2008–09 financial year3) and the contribution of mental illness to the burden of disease (13%). However, proper accountability for this expenditure is crucial. Health care consumers, carers, service providers, funders and taxpayers all have a right to know that funding for mental health is being spent judiciously, is targeted at the areas of greatest need, and is delivering better outcomes for people with mental illness. Establishing this accountability is not easy. The complexity of state and federal Budget announcements (and re-announcements) are the modus operandi of governments and perpetuate an environment characterised by opacity rather than transparency. After decades of underfunding for mental health services, new funding is often simply welcomed without query as to provenance or policy. In this article, we review the recent wave of mental health funding decisions in Australia. While we want to see the level of funding increase, such increases must be evidence-based, effectively delivered and transparently monitored.
Medical Journal of Australia / Vol. 196, No. 3, pp.159-161