Wednesday, October 11, 2006

World: Cautious optimism on a Mental Health auction

It may seem like I'm obsessed with mental health issues, but I'm not. I've posted on the subject twice before because it's a social issue, and a bellwether for the health of a government and a society. Moreover, poor policy results in increased crime and poverty.

My previous post on failings in mental health care policy discussed deinstitutionalisation being poorly implemented because it's been run from a short-term cost-reduction perspective - rather than focusing on outcomes that reap more indirect monetary benefits. Strictly speaking, this is old news. My understanding is that the 80s and 90s saw similar policy moves across the western world - with similarly poor results.

Now there's a State election around March next year, so comes news that the two sides of politics in New South Wales are running a bidding war on mental health funding. Strange as it may seem, the Liberals effectively said "I'll match Labor's funding promises and raise you this much more".

Although this should be nothing but good news, I can't help retaining an edge of cynicism. Election promises are like bravado talk in a boozy pub late on a Friday night. And implementation of promises always falls short, never exceeds.

Still, they've set a common benchmark. We can only watch and wait with cautious optimism.

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