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Investment in Australian mental health carer services: how much and does it reflect evidence of effectiveness?
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by J Schess, S DIminic, E Hielscher, M G Harris, Yong Yi Lee, J Kealton, H A Whiteford
Objective: The aims of this study were to quantify Australian federal and state government expenditure on mental health carer services for 2014-15, map the types of services being provided and explore how funded service types compare with the evidence base for the outcomes of these carer services. Methods: Web searches were conducted to identify in-scope mental health carer services in Australia funded by federal and state and territory governments. Funding estimates were confirmed where possible with available government and carer organisation contacts. A literature search was conducted for reviews of studies investigating mental health carer service outcomes. Results: In 2014-15, the estimated Australian national, state and territory government expenditure on mental health carer services was approximately A$90.6 million. This comprised A$65.6 million in federal expenditure and A$25.0 million in state and territory expenditure. Most funding streams provided respite and psychoeducation. The literature showed positive carer outcomes for psychoeducation and intensive family interventions. Evidence was lacking for the effectiveness of respite services. Conclusions: These findings suggest a mismatch between what is known about the extent to which different service types deliver positive carer outcomes and the current allocation of funds across Australia's mental health system. This study also highlights the fragmentation of the mental health carer services system, supporting the need to streamline access. What is known about this topic?: Informal carers of people with mental disorders provide a critical role to the significant number of individuals with mental illness in Australia, and provide an unpaid workforce to the Australian mental health system. This role comes with significant physical, emotional and financial burden, which government-funded services can assist with to allow mental health carers to continue to serve in their caring role while improving their quality of life. What does this paper add?: Using both published data and communication with health and non-government officials, we have estimated federal and state expenditure on mental health carer services at A$90.6 million in 2014-15 fiscal year and have provided a mapping of the services this expenditure funds. In addition, through analysis of the literature on outcomes of carer services provided, we have seen a mismatch of expenditure and the evidence base. What are the implications for practitioners?: There is a necessity for both more research into service outcomes aimed particularly at mental health carers and thinking critically about whether the current prioritisation of funds can be increased and/or reallocated to create better outcomes for mental health carers.