Politics — 13 November 2014

FOUR out of five Victorians believe mental health needs to be made a top priority of the State Election as concerns grow about a funding gap for the sector.

A pre-election poll has also show two thirds Victorians believe building a state-of-the-art youth mental health research facility should be a high or top priority — despite neither major party backing a $70 million upgrade of Orygen’s Parkville research centre.

Professor Patrick McGorry said the findings of new Roy Morgan Research poll underline the unprecedented public concern over the state’s declining mental health resources.

“The world has changed and we need to start thinking about the treatment of mental health in the same way we do about cancer because people don’t just want 21st century care, they know that research is vital,” Prof McGorry said.

“Current neglect of mental health at a state level is harming Victorian families and causing widespread premature death and disability. In the community mental health is a sleeping giant.”

The poll, commissioned by Orygen, found more than 80 per cent of Victorians believe Government’s needed to back research into better methods for treating mental health and drug and alcohol problems. It also found;

• THREE out of four voters believe young people should be priority for new funding of expert mental health care;

• NINE out of 10 Victorians agree everyone should have ready access to community-based expert mental health care;

• AND 91.8 per cent say regional mental health services need to be extended.

Despite more than 80 per cent of Victorians agreeing there was a huge gap between the mental health services needed and those funded, the largest international youth mental health research centre is crumbling to the ground.

A termite infestation in the 106-year-old asylum building has forced world-leading health professionals and researchers to evacuate areas of Orygen Youth Health in Parkville, which provides care to thousands of young people every year.

Staff who have travelled from across the globe work out of old draughty portables and garages that have been converted into makeshift offices.

Prof McGorry wants a $70 million commitment from the State Government to replace the dilapidated centre, with fears talented clinicians and researchers will flee to better and safer sites.

With mental illness in 12 to 25-year-olds costing Australia more than $10 billion and Australians being much more likely to die of suicide than skin cancer or road accidents, Prof McGorry said it was a much needed investment.

“A generation of young people are going to be consigned to the social and economical scrapheap unless action is taken by the next State Government,” Prof McGorry said.

Labor had committed to the Orygen revamp before the 2010 election but funding was not secured when the Baillieu Government came into power. The Napthine Government invested more than $600,000 for the master plan of the new centre.

This article first appeared on ‘Herald Sun’ on 12 November 2014.

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