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Welcome Funding For Medical Research And Mental Health But More Work Needed To Address Australia’s Drug And Alcohol Service Crisis


April 2019

St Vincent’s Health Australia – Australia’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care service provider – has welcomed the Morrison Government’s funding initiatives across the portfolio but says more must be done to support Australians struggling with alcohol and other drug problems.

“There’s much to welcome in the areas of health and aged care in this budget, but I’m concerned some of our most vulnerable citizens have been overlooked,” said Toby Hall, St Vincent’s Health Australia’s CEO.

“St Vincent’s is a partner in three of Australia’s leading medical research institutes – the Victor Chang Institute, the Garvan Institute and St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research – so, of course, we’re happy to see the Government’s continued emphasis on medical research in this year’s budget.”

St Vincent’s Health will benefit from $30m in funding for the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, Australia’s first biomedical engineering research hub which will be built at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

“The Aikenhead Centre will be unique in Australia and rare in the world. It will be Australia’s first biomedical engineering research hub integrated with a hospital – and that’s what it makes it different to anything else happening in our country.

“By bringing scientists, engineers and students together with patients for the first time, Aikenhead will create collaborations to accelerate new discoveries in a way that is not currently available at any other clinical research campus in Australia. It will halve the time it takes to find breakthroughs and turn them into life-saving and life-changing treatments.

“As a provider of mental health services at our public hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney, we welcome the Government’s focus in this area and we’ll watch with interest the trial of eight specialist mental health hospitals to help people when and where they need it.

“The investment in Indigenous suicide prevention is also worth noting given the desperate need for support among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

However, Mr Hall said he was disappointed at the Budget’s lack of emphasis on one of Australia’s hidden crises: the half a million people who are unable to access alcohol and other drug treatment services.

“Last week, St Vincent’s along with 20 other organisations called on the Federal Government to make a significant down-payment on adequately funding the nation’s alcohol and other drug treatment services in tonight’s budget.

“While there is some new funding for alcohol and other drug services – for example in Northern Queensland – without a national, strategic plan for the alcohol and other drug sector, how do we know that money is going to where need is greatest?

“Elsewhere the funding is about continuity of treatment services, but that’s not enough. We can’t just hold the line, we need to grow services to meet demand,” said Mr Hall.

Media contact: Paul Andrews 0409 665 495