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Serious gaps in Victoria's mental health system grow as the NDIS takes their funding

Victorians with severe mental illness are losing vital community support services as funding is withdrawn to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), according to a new report released this week. The ‘Mind the Gap: NDIS & Psychosocial Disability: The Victorian Story’ report, commissioned by SalvoConnect Barwon and Mental Health Victoria, warns of a "growing catastrophe" in Victoria where gaps in mental health supports under the NDIS rollout and in Victoria’s underfunded mental health system are causing "poor and inequitable service at best and severe trauma and harm at worst". The report shows that failure to bridge these gaps also means that community services like SalvoConnect Barwon are doing unfunded work to ensure people get the support they urgently need.

Network Director Lorrinda Hamilton said they were previously able to provide a flexible response to people with or without a formal diagnosis. "There might be a rough sleeper with schizophrenia living under a bridge. He is noticed by a person in the community, they ring us, we would send a mental health professional," Ms Hamilton said, "... whereas now we still get those calls but we are not funded to send a mental health worker out there because the person doesn't have a NDIS plan." Victoria once led the way in mental health services in Australia, but now has the lowest per capita expenditure on mental health in Australia. "This is unsustainable – we cannot continue to subsidise the NDIS at the cost of losing services that people desperately need” said Ms Hamilton.

The Salvation Army's 2018-19 state budget submission calls for the Victorian Government to invest in community mental health services that will address these dire gaps. The research findings were reported in The Age on Monday and the full report is available here.