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National recurrent expenditure on all mental health related services in Australia in 2007-08 was estimated to be $5.3 billion, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Mental health services in Australia 2007-08, shows that of the $5.3 billion, about 60.5% came from state and territory governments, 36% from the Australian Government and 3.5% from private health insurance funds. Patient out-of-pocket expenses are not included in this figure.

Expenditure on state and territory mental health services increased on average by almost 6% per year (after adjusting for inflation) between 2003-04 and 2007-08, to $3.3 billion.

'Overall, services for people with mental health care needs continue to show a steady increase, generally above the rate of population growth,' said Mr Gary Hanson of the AIHW's Mental Health Services Unit.

In 2008-09, over 21 million mental health-related prescriptions were subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS), costing the Australian Government over $742 million. The majority of this cost was for antipsychotics (51%) and antidepressants (41%).

'General practitioners are often a first contact point for mental health concerns, with an estimated 13.2 million GP-patient encounters involving management of a mental health issue in 2008-09,' Mr Hanson said.

The report found that Medicare claims for GP items, mainly GP Mental Health Care items, constituted around 1.6 million of the claims made in 2008-09.

Claims for subsidised psychiatrist, psychologist and other allied health professional services increased by 17% from 3.9 million in 2007-08 to 4.6 million claims in 2008-09.

The Australian Government paid $666 million in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health services in 2008-09, reflecting an annual average increase of nearly 27% since 2004-05.

'This increase reflects in part the introduction of Medicare items for psychologists during that period,' Mr Hanson said.

Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing suggest that one in five Australians experience symptoms of a mental disorder each year.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Further information: Gary Hanson, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1052, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1230.

Mental health services in Australia 2007-08

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