Even as Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has defended his government's efforts to boost mental health services, support groups in the field have accused him of "leaving the sector to rot".
Notably, only a little under $200 million, of the $7.4 billion announced for health, was allocated towards mental health in Tuesday's budget.
Blaming budgetary constraints for the "low" spending in the sector, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the system simply isn't ready for more. "It isn't possible for us to do everything at once and it's not possible for the system to absorb everything being done at once," she said while speaking to a national radio on Wednesday.
Australia has to grow within its capacity, and there is a lot of money for mental health sector, which the government allocated but could not be properly utilised, she argued. Labelling the 2011/11 federal budget a "good one" for mental health, she added that the $200 million commitment over four years doubled the existing fund allocation.
However, Ian Hickie, from the Brain and Mind Research Institute, is not at all ready to buy Roxon's point. "They've left the sector to rot," he said while dismissing the federal government's concerns about capacity constraints. You never hear it in cancer... you never hear it in heart disease, he pointed out.
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