Nursing home residents deserve better access to mental health care (2017-2018 Campaign)
The Better Access to Mental Health Care program was designed to improve access to mental health services. There was just one problem – it excluded residential aged care. In 2006, when the program was designed, residential aged care was seen as an institutional setting, able to provide residents with access to necessary care. While nursing home residents can access some mental health services through their aged care provider, this doesn’t happen anywhere near enough, and is not as well funded. University research has repeatedly found that fewer than two per cent of nursing home residents suffering depression have received clinically recommended treatment. And yet we know that aged care residents suffer some of the highest incidence of depression in the country.
Under the Better Access to Mental Health Care program, 170,000 older Australians cannot access the same Medicare-funded treatment as the rest of the community. This needs to change.
In January 2017, COTA Australia launched a petition to restore mental health services for older Australians in residential aged care. The petition to the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health read as:
We the undersigned urge you to immediately overturn the outdated discrimination that denies older Australians in residential aged care access to Medicare-funded psychological treatment through the Better Access to Mental Health Care program – treatment that is available to the rest of us as a right.
Your government is commendably implementing bi-partisan reform that delivers greater choice and control to older people over their aged care. An historic anomaly denies them access to the Better Mental Health program.
Reversing this out of date provision is a great way to make sure they have the same control over their mental health as all other Australians.
Over 170,000 aged care residents are being denied the same rights as the rest of us because of out of date government sanctioned age discrimination.
Please fix it now!
In May 2017, COTA Australia participated in a Round Table discussion with Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt MP. The roundtable, consisting of mental health and aged care experts, focused on strategies to improve the very poor access of people in residential aged care to mental health care. We continued to keep up the pressure for residents to get access to their rights to the same mental health care as other citizens.
In June 2017, we presented the Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt MP, with a petition of over 5,000 signatures.
In the next budget in 2018, there was a record $82.5M investment into mental health care for aged care residents, as well as $20M trial to improve mental health services for Australians over 75 years of age whose mental and physical health are at risk because of social isolation and loneliness. This as a fantastic outcome that could have been only achieved thanks to the active voices of so many COTA Australia supporters.