Not ignoring people who suffer from mental illnesses

I write in regard to a letter published in The Northern Daily Leader on Saturday, 2 July, 2016 from Mrs Helen Mary Jones of Woolomin regarding the mental health support group she has founded called Mindmatters and in which she suggested mental health was not a priority for me or The Nationals.

I was disappointed that Mrs Jones co-ordinated the publication of her letter on election day which did not provide me with an opportunity to reply on the important issue of mental health before people headed to the polls.

The responses Mrs Jones has cited regarding her inquiries with my office are very much out of character and any misunderstandings, miscommunication or missed calls are regretted. 

I am not ignoring people who suffer from mental illnesses and I am certainly not failing to respond to my constituents.

In fact, my electorate office was recently recognised as the most responsive in Australia by the organisation FairGO, for the second consecutive time.

In regard to Mrs Jones’ question as to what assurance I can give to the people of New England that I will support initiatives and funding for mental health in our region, I would advise that on June 26, the Coalition released its policy to strengthen mental health care in Australia.

A re-elected Coalition government will invest an additional $192 million in strengthening our mental health reforms. This will deliver once-in-a-generation reform, putting the needs of individuals at the centre of our mental health system.

This funding is in addition to the $360 million already provided by the federal Coalition government to the Primary Health Networks in 2016/17.

Ten Primary Health Network (PHN) mental health lead sites will become champions of mental health reform. We are also committed to leaving no stone unturned in suicide prevention, with:

*12 PHNs to conduct regional suicide prevention trials;

* a Suicide Prevention Research Fund;

* transformation of digital mental health services; and

* a new National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Funding for headspace is guaranteed, with an extra $20 million for 10 new headspace centres by 2019, bringing the total to 110 sites Australia-wide. 

We will continue funding for the existing six Early Psychosis Youth Services, as well as develop a regional service model for other young people experiencing severe mental illness. 

The Coalition will also provide $1.5 million to look at a new workforce model for mental health nurses.

Only the Coalition is committed to building a social, economic and health environment where the mental health of all Australians, and the mental wealth of our nation, can flourish.

A funding summary of the package includes:

* $26 million for 10 PHN lead sites (and an additional $7 million for four PHN lead sites focused on suicide prevention) to be champions of mental health reform;

* $24 million for eight suicide prevention trial sites, a total of 12 Suicide Prevention sites (four PHN lead sites and eight trial sites);

* $12 million for a new Suicide Prevention Research Fund and Best Practice Hub to support targeted research and evaluation, and support the PHNs in their role;

* Guaranteed funding for headspace;

* Guaranteed funding for six youth early psychosis services until 2019;

*  $20 million for an additional 10 headspace centres, bringing the total to 110, with a focus on additional services in rural and regional areas;

* $30 million for 21st-century digital technologies to support mental health reforms; 

* $2.5 million to Lifeline to trial a crisis text service; and 

* The independent National Mental Health Commission to oversee and report annually on the progress and implementation of these important reforms.

The Coalition government understands the significant impact of depression, anxiety and poor mental health on individuals and our productivity as a nation.

These mental health reforms will result in better personalised support and care, greater opportunity and better lives for people in the New England electorate and across Australia.

We are a government that has made mental health a first-term priority and this extra funding demonstrates our commitment to ensure it remains front and centre going forward.

The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP

Federal Member for New England

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Leader of The Nationals