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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : October 2006
mental health CALL TO ACTION: pharmacy missing in national mental health plan The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed to a National Action Plan on mental health with the Prime Minister announcing additional Commonwealth funding of $1.9bn over five years. But, as KYMBERLY MARTIN reports, there is no mention of pharmacy in the Plan W ITH nearly one in five, or more than three million Australians, affected by mental illness in any one year, it is estimated that the annual cost of mental illness in this country is approximately $20bn. The National Action Plan will focus on promotion, prevention and early inter- vention, improved access to mental health services, including indigenous and rural communities, more stable accommoda- tion and support and participation in recreational, social, employment and other activities in the community. The Plan provides a strategic frame- work with coordination and collaboration between government, private and non- private providers, but there is no mention of pharmacy involvement. Commenting to the AJP on the Plan, Gordon Parker, Professor of Psychiatry at 48 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.87 OCTOBER 2006 the University of New South Wales and executive director of the Black Dog Insti- tute at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital, acknowledged that the direction of the Plan seemed reasonable, particularly where it could improve community support for people with mental illness and their families. ‘Some people find it very hard to cope on their own, so I think that component is very important. Also, the increased involvement of psy- chologists in mental health services is part of the Plan, but we are still waiting for details on how this will actually operate.’ Opportunity for pharmacy Professor Ian Hickie, executive director of the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Sydney and Jeff Kennett, chairman of the national depression initiative beyond- blue, both believe there is an opportunity for pharmacy to become more involved in mental health issues. While acknowledging there was no mention of pharmacy in the National Action Plan, Professor Hickie believes pharmacy should be putting up its hand to play a role. Professor Hickie told the AJP: ‘The Quality Use of Medicine is a big agenda, community education is a big agenda and community pharmacy is an ideal location for these issues. ‘The National Action Plan is suddenly bringing into mental health a whole lot of areas of government that have never been in mental health before, and these are all starting from square one in terms of their understanding of the issue, such as edu- cation, welfare, housing and justice. ‘For the first time it means the state pre- miers and the Prime Minister have com- mitted to making mental health a genuine whole-of-government issue. The trouble with that is you have people entering into it for the first time who are really starting from the basic kind of understanding. ‘But there are broader issues at stake and, at this stage, while the NAC is a very