Regional mental health should be State Budget priority

Wednesday October 14, 2020

Published by the Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell

South Australia’s regions should be the focus of mental health spending in the upcoming State Budget, said Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.  

The Independent MP said the State Budget, which will be handed down on November 10, was crucial timing for the state’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“We are facing one of its biggest post-pandemic challenges – ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of South Australians,” he said. 

“The statistics are showing there is a call to Lifeline’s national hotline every 30 seconds. It’s clear there will be unprecedented demand for mental health services in the years to come.” 

In his speech to State Parliament during Mental Health Week, Mr Bell quoted from the South Australian Mental Health Services Plan 2020-2025, which recognises ‘a potential workforce crisis looming’ and ‘major shortages in country South Australia’. 

Mr Bell said funding should be allocated via a region-by-region approach, in consultation with local experts.  

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health and the needs of the Limestone Coast region are vastly different to that of metropolitan Adelaide,” he said. 

“You can throw funding at mental health services all you like but the fact is, it is an ongoing challenge to find experienced mental health staff for these services,” he said. 

“There needs to be retention and recruitment strategies for mental health workers in regional centres. I have been informed job vacancies are staying unfilled for months and sometimes years. 

"The regions are viewed as being merely a training ground – a place to do your time or rotation and then head back to the city, so there also needs to be career progression opportunities.  

“We cannot expect to keep skilled people if there are not the jobs for them to progress to.”  

Mr Bell said he would also be raising the issue of continuing mental health impacts on cross border community members. 

“People are telling us they are facing extensive delays, sometimes up to four weeks, for exemptions to be approved to cross the border,” he said. 

“These people are effectively living in limbo waiting for answers from SA Health to relocate lives, families and businesses and it’s having a serious impact on their mental wellbeing. 

“It’s completely unacceptable that decisions impacting regional people are being decided by people based in metropolitan areas with no concept of the challenges of living regionally or in a border community.”