Chronicle deputy editor Mat Nott
Chronicle deputy editor Mat Nott

Unwise to knock back fed money

WHEN a man of Professor Patrick McGorry's calibre tells you that you have got mental health wrong, it is worth listening.

Politicians of all stripes have done so in the past.

His model of early diagnosis and treatment of psychosis has helped shape Federal Government and Coalition policies to some extent.

Alongside his credentials as a leading international researcher, clinician and advocate for the youth mental health reform agenda is his leadership of the Orygen Youth Health.

This is a mental health unit recognised internationally for its innovative work.

On the first day of a mental health conference in Maryborough yesterday, Professor McGorry rebuked the State Government for failing to accept Federal Government funds to develop mental health infrastructure in our region.

The shock was palpable in our community when a new facility in Hervey Bay and extra beds in Maryborough were blocked.

The State Government's move was ill considered and deprived our region of infrastructure worth $25 million to assist and treat the mentally sick into the future.

How often does a community such as ours get the chance to pocket that sort of federal money? You can bet we won't see it again for the next five years, at least.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told me at the time that running hospitals is a State Government responsibility. She's right.

The feds were more than happy to build the structures.

The electorate certainly has a notion that the past Labor government was profligate.

The people get it.

But the tendency to trot the inherited budget black hole out as an excuse for every job and funding cut is being increasingly seen as a tool to deflect criticism rather than explain policy.

It has got to have a shelf life.

Prof McGorry's opinion was crystal clear. Mental health issues were being put at the bottom of the pile by the Newman government.

When funding has to be cut it is mental health services that are flayed away first.

When did dollars become more important than our social compact with government that demands the most vulnerable among us are the first to draw upon the public purse?

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